Wellness Words February 2020

Wellness Words February 2020

HealthLink Littauer’s


Submitted by Alicia DeRuscio, B.S.

Heart Health

Did you know that your heart and blood vessels change with age? According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA) people over 65 years of age are much more likely to have problems with their heart and blood vessels, including heart attack, stroke, heart disease and heart failure.

How The Heart Works

The heart is a strong muscle in your chest that pumps blood throughout your body. It works like an engine to keep your body running and is controlled by an electrical system that determines how fast and how hard the heart beats. The heart is divided into four different sections, two upper chambers called atria and two lower chambers called ventricles. Each chamber is separated by a valve that opens and closes when blood enters or leaves. The right side of the heart receives blood low in oxygen from the body and pumps it to the lungs to receive oxygen. The left side of the heart pumps the blood high in oxygen to the rest of the body.

Age–Related Changes

According to the NIA, as you age, your heart and blood vessels lose some of their ability to function as efficiently as when you were younger. Over many years, fatty deposits begin to build up in the blood vessels, specifically the arteries, causing them to stiffen and narrow. Stiffening of the arteries is called arteriosclerosis and narrowing of the arteries is called atherosclerosis. The muscles of the heart also become weakened and the chambers of the heart can increase in size. A weakened heart may lead to an arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat, while an increase in size of the chambers will decrease the amount of blood your heart can hold, causing it to fill more slowly. The valves of the heart can also stiffen with age, limiting the flow of blood into and out of each chamber.

Heart Disease

The NIA defines heart disease as the buildup of fatty deposits in the walls of the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are located outside of the heart and are responsible for delivering blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. Over time, as fatty deposits build up, they can block the flow of blood to your heart muscle or cause a rupture in your arteries. This leads to a lack of oxygen–rich blood to the muscles of the heart, resulting in chest pain or even heart attack (cell death of heart muscle). In order to protect your heart and your body, it’s important to educate yourself on the symptoms of heart disease and the steps you can take to improve heart health.

Symptoms Of Heart Disease

The NIA lists several signs and symptoms of heart disease including:

  • Chest pain, pressure or discomfort
  • Chest pain during physical activity that gets better when you rest
  • Pain, numbness or tingling in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back
  • Shortness of breath at rest or during activity
  • Feeling lightheaded, dizzy or confused
  • Headache, feeling tired or fatigued
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Cold sweats
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, stomach or neck
  • Difficulty performing normal activities
  • Difficulty exercising or being physically active

People with heart disease may or may not experience symptoms, so it’s important to regularly visit your healthcare provider.


In order to protect your heart, the NIA recommends:

  • Following a healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy
  • Increasing physical activity to get 150 minutes of activity each week
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Minimizing alcohol consumption
  • Managing stress
  • Managing diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol

If you have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, talk with your healthcare provider about managing your condition. They will be able to give you a plan that best fits your lifestyle and needs.

For more information on heart health, talk to your healthcare provider or contact HealthLink Littauer at 518-736-1120.  You can email us at healthlink@nlh.org or visit our wellness center located at 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown.  We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.

Wellness Words February 2019

HealthLink Littauer’sAlicia DeRuscio-Head


Submitted by Alicia DeRuscio, B.S.

Community Education Assistant


February Is American Heart Month

Did you know the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States is heart disease? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 630,000 Americans die from heart disease every year.  Therefore, it’s important to stay educated on heart health, know the risk factors associated with heart problems, and the steps you can take to protect yourself against such problems.

Speaking of heart health, you’ve probably heard the terms cardiovascular disease, heart disease and coronary artery disease, but do you know the difference between them?

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute defines cardiovascular disease as a broad term used to describe any type of disease that affects either the heart or the blood vessels. Heart disease is considered a type of cardiovascular disease.  All heart diseases are considered cardiovascular diseases, but not all cardiovascular diseases are heart diseases.

Heart Disease

There are several types of heart diseases, all of which affect the heart. While coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease, there are many other conditions that affect the heart.  These conditions may include but are not limited to arrhythmias, heart failure and cardiomyopathy.  An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat that can be either very fast or very slow, heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to supply the body’s needs, and cardiomyopathy is a condition that affects the heart muscles, resulting in a weakened heart.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

Coronary artery disease is a type of heart disease and, according to the American Heart Association, is actually the most common type of heart disease, affecting more than 16.5 million Americans. CAD occurs when there is a buildup of plaque in the arteries.  This plaque is usually made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium or other substances.  When plaque builds up, the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart is blocked and can lead to chest pain and heart attack.

Promoting Heart Health

While there are some uncontrollable risk factors that increase the chance of developing cardiovascular disease, like age or family history, there are many risk factors that we can control. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, a poor diet and inactivity can all greatly increase your chance of developing cardiovascular disease.  In order to promote heart health and protect against CVD, the National Institute of Health recommends:

  • Keeping your blood pressure, cholesterol, and A1C levels in check by visiting your healthcare provider on a regular basis.
  • Reducing the amount of salt you eat to no more than 2,300 mg per day.
  • Increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains you eat.
  • Engaging in physical activity on a regular basis.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Not smoking.
  • Managing stress.

For more information, contact your healthcare provider or call HealthLink Littauer at 518-736-1120. You can email us at healthlink@nlh.org or visit our wellness center on 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown.  We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.

Wellness Words February 2018

HealthLink Littauer’sAlicia DeRuscio-Head


Submitted by Alicia DeRuscio, B.S.

Community Education Assistant


February Is American Heart Month

It’s the perfect time to learn about the importance of heart health and take the necessary steps to prevent heart disease. One of the main risk factors for heart disease is high blood pressure, also called hypertension.  The American Heart Association notes that nearly half of Americans over the age of 20 have high blood pressure and don’t know it.  Having high blood pressure is dangerous and can lead to heart attack or stroke.  Therefore, it’s important to know your numbers and have your blood pressure checked regularly.

What is blood pressure?

According to the American Heart Association, blood pressure is the force of blood that pushes against your blood vessel walls, and it is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). When you have your blood pressure checked, it is written as two numbers, such as 110/70 mm Hg.  The top number is your systolic number, which refers to the pressure in your arteries when the heart beats.  The bottom number is your diastolic number, which refers to the pressure in your arteries when the heart is at rest.  Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg.

What is high blood pressure?

The American Heart Association defines a blood pressure reading of 130/80 mm Hg or higher as high blood pressure. If your systolic number, or top number, is 120 – 129, and your diastolic number, or bottom number, is less than 80, this is considered “elevated” blood pressure.

What are the risk factors for high blood pressure?

Certain risk factors increase your chances of developing high blood pressure. Some of these risk factors are controllable, and some are not.

The risk factors you can control include:

  • Smoking and secondhand smoke exposure
  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • High cholesterol
  • Consuming an unhealthy diet
  • Being physically inactive

The risk factors you cannot control or change include:

  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Increasing age
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

How do you determine if you have high blood pressure?

In order to determine whether or not you have high blood pressure, you must get it checked regularly by your physician or healthcare provider.

Are there steps I can take to manage or control my high blood pressure?

Yes! If you have high blood pressure, follow these tips from the American Heart Association:

  • Don’t smoke and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Consume a diet that is filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products while minimizing intake of saturated fats and trans fats
  • Decrease your salt intake! Try to consume less than 1,500 mg of salt a day
  • Choose foods that are rich in potassium
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Get active! The AHA recommends getting at least 90 to 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity each day, as well as performing resistance or weight training activities three times per week
  • Take your medications as prescribed by your provider
  • Educate yourself – know what your blood pressure should be and work to achieve those numbers

If you would like to learn more, attend a special program on ‘Healthy Hearts’ presented by Nicole Higgins R.P.A., of Littauer’s Primary Care Services, on February 28 in Littauer’s Auditorium.

You are invited to join us for a buffet-style luncheon at 11:30 for $6 or attend the presentation only at 12 noon at no charge. To attend, call HealthLink Littauer at 518-736-1120 or email healthlink@nlh.org.  We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.

Wellness Words February 2010

HealthLink Littauer’s


Submitted by Carol Tomlinson RN BS

Community Health Educator


Many women are surprised to learn that coronary heart disease – often thought to be a “man’s illness” – is the #1 killer of women in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. In fact, women are 5 times more likely to die from heart disease as from breast cancer, and almost twice as many American women die of heart disease and stroke than from all types of cancer combined!

While heart disease cannot completely be stopped, certain lifestyle changes can significantly lower your risk of developing this illness. Unfortunately, several myths about heart disease and women continue to persist. Four of the top myths include:

Myth #1: Risk factors for heart disease are the same, regardless of gender. Studies show that certain illnesses and conditions are more likely to cause heart disease in women than in men. For example, metabolic syndrome is more likely to trigger heart disease in women. This condition is marked by obesity around the abdomen, high blood pressure and high levels of blood sugar and triglycerides.

Myth #2: Heart disease is likely to be milder in women. In some ways, women are at greater risk of serious injury from heart problems than men. For unknown reasons, statistics show that women are less likely to survive a heart attack than men.

Myth #3: Symptoms of a heart attack are the same for both genders. Women are actually likely to experience different types of symptoms than men. For example, women are more likely to feel unusual fatigue, abdominal, neck, shoulder or upper back pain, nausea, vomiting and shortness of breath during a heart attack than their male counterparts. Often women ignore these symptoms especially if they are not accompanied by severe chest pain. By the time they finally realize that something is seriously wrong, there may be significant heart damage.

Myth #4: Smoking is a greater heart-disease risk for men. Traditionally, men have been more likely to smoke and to smoke more than women. However, in recent years there has been an alarming upward spike in the numbers of women smokers. The risk of heart disease rises with both the number of cigarettes you smoke and the length of time since you first started smoking.

According to the American Heart Association, these myths and misconceptions lead many women into a false sense of security—just 13% of women believe heart disease is their own greatest risk factor. Not only should women take this condition seriously, but they should also discuss their concerns with their physician during their annual exam.

For more information on heart disease, contact the American Heart Association at 1-800-242-8721 (americanheart.org), your health care provider or HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120. You can e-mail us at healthlink@nlh.org, see our website at nlh.org, or visit our wellness center at 213 Harrison Street Ext. in Johnstown, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.