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What is the Best Exercise for the Heart?

Serving as the powerhouse of the cardiovascular system, a strong heart is crucial to maintaining overall health. Following a heart-healthy diet, like the DASH or Mediterranean Diet, and incorporating an exercise routine geared towards strengthening the heart are two of the easiest ways to ensure your heart remains strong and healthy.

Exercise Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease

As the heart becomes stronger, each beat pumps more blood. As this oxygenated blood begins moving more quickly throughout the body, the efficiency of organ systems improves. In addition, exercise helps reduce the risk of heart disease, can lower blood pressure as well as decrease the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in the blood. LDL is the cholesterol responsible for clogging the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack. Exercise also helps counteract the effects of LDL by raising the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels in the blood. HDL helps improve heart health by carrying fatty deposits out of the arteries; thus, reducing the likelihood of a heart attack.

What Type of Exercise is the Best for Strengthening the Heart?

When it comes to heart care, aerobic exercise works the heart muscle the most. In fact, due to its ability to build the heart muscle, aerobic exercise is frequently referred to as “cardiovascular exercise.”

Examples of cardiovascular exercises include:

  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Biking

After receiving approval to begin a heart-strengthening exercise routine, patients need to start out slow, gradually increasing stamina per their physician's approval. Eventually reaching the recommendations as set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, adults should incorporate at least 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise into their schedule every week. To be effective, the length of aerobic exercise sessions must be at least 10 minutes.

Examples of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercises include:

  • Cycling on a flat surface
  • Taking a brisk walk
  • Swimming leisurely
  • Dancing
  • Working in a garden

Stay Flexible for Overall Health

As we age, our bodies become more rigid. Stretching promotes flexibility, helps keep the joints limber and allows the muscles to maintain a full range of motion. In addition, remaining flexible reduces the likelihood of suffering an injury while exercising or participating in other activities.

Flexibility exercises include:

  • Taichi
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Basic stretches

Once you know that you are healthy enough, getting active is the best way to improve your quality of life. Walking is a simple activity that most people already do. Many patients find that using a pedometer to track their steps keeps them motivated and provides them the information they need to gradually increase the number of steps they walk each day.

Dr. Ken Stevens can evaluate your heart to ensure you are healthy enough to begin a cardiovascular exercise routine. As your cardiologist, Dr. Stevens can help you as you work towards improving your health. To schedule an appointment, please contact Premier Heart and Vein Care today at 805-979-4777.

How can you tell if your heart is healthy?

Your heart is constantly working, 24/7. It never stops – ever. It is integral to sustaining your life, so you want to make sure it is as healthy as possible. But what does good heart health look like? While some conditions may arise as a person gets older, age doesn’t necessarily mean that you automatically have heart problems. In fact, with good heart care, you can enjoy a strong, healthy heart even into your later years. The better condition your heart is in, the less likely you will need vein treatment later in life.

And it all starts with knowing if your heart is healthy.

Your heart rate is within its target range.

The American Heart Association recommends a resting heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute, the lower, the better. A lower heart rate indicates a healthier heart. It means that your heart is in good condition and doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood through your body.

Your maximum and target heart rate will also change as your heart gets stronger. To find your maximum rate, subtract your age from 220. That is the highest heart rate you should experience when you exercise.

When you engage in moderately intense activities, aim for between 50% and 70% of your maximum heart rate. If you are engaged in vigorous activity, aim for 70% to 85% of your max heart rate.

Your blood pressure is good.

Blood pressure measures the amount of force your blood exerts against your artery walls while your heart is pumping. There are actually two measurements taken, systolic and diastolic. By measuring both you get a more complete function of the heart.

  • Systolic blood pressure – Measures arterial pressure when the heart contracts or squeezes.
  • Diastolic blood pressure – Measures arterial pressure when the heart is at rest, or between heartbeats.

Normal blood pressure is less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic. Higher numbers can indicate heart problems or an increased risk for heart disease.

Your bloodwork shows great levels.

There are several blood tests that can be done that are good indicators of heart health. Measuring triglycerides, LDL (bad cholesterol), and HDL (good cholesterol) are fairly standard in assessing overall health, including the heart. There may be other tests that your doctor will perform depending on other conditions you may have, your family history, or other risk factors for heart disease.

At Premier Heart and Vein Center, your heart health is our priority. Our doctors specialize in heart and vein care. Whether you are treating a heart problem, need vein care, or you just want to make sure your heart is as healthy as possible, we’re here for you. Call today for an appointment and keep your heart healthy.

 

How do I prepare for radiofrequency ablation (RFA)?

State-of-the-art treatments such as radiofrequency ablation are minimally invasive, low risk, and effective options to get rid of varicose veins. Learn what this procedure entails and how to prepare for radiofrequency ablation.

Purpose of Radiofrequency Ablation

Varicose veins form when the walls of your veins become weakened. This causes veins to bulge and swell. Traditional methods of vein treatment involved stripping the veins from the skin, leading to pain and scarring. Newer methods like radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, remove varicose veins without causing these complications.

In radiofrequency ablation, your vein doctor will insert a small catheter, or tube, into the diseased vein. This requires a very tiny incision. The catheter then delivers heat using radiofrequency energy. This targets the collagen in the vein walls, causing the molecules to collapse. Once the vein walls have collapsed, your body naturally diverts blood to alternative pathways and reabsorbs the varicose vein.s

How to Prepare for Radiofrequency Ablation

Before you arrive for your RFA appointment, your vein doctor will provide specific instructions about how to prepare. In general, you should do the following to prepare for radiofrequency ablation:

  • Arrange transportation to and from the appointment if you are taking a sedative medication
  • Take your sedative (if prescribed) approximately 1 hour before the procedure
  • Drink lots of water
  • Remember your compression stockings
  • Wear loose clothing. This might include sweatpants, shorts, or a skirt. Tight clothing restricts your motion and may affect healing.
  • Know that your underwear may get stained. Depending on the placement of the affected vein, your doctor may prep your entire leg, including groin area.
  • Fill out paperwork and bring your health insurance card.

What to Expect After Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation is minimally invasive. As a result, most people find that they experience only minor discomfort during the procedure. Additionally, receiving radiofrequency ablation can lead to lower rates of pain, bruising, and scarring compared to other vein treatment options. For best outcomes, follow this advice after your RFA procedure:

  • Do not sit or stand for long periods of time
  • Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activity for 2 weeks.
  • Walk frequently after your procedure.
  • Wear your compression stockings for at least 3 days after the RFA procedure (taking them off at night). Wearing them longer may help.
  • Schedule a follow-up appointment with your vein doctor. This typically includes an ultrasound within 1-3 days.
  • Take showers, but avoid submerging yourself in water for at least one week. This means no baths, swimming, or hot tubs.
  • Try to move around at least once per hour.
  • Take baby aspirin, if medically indicated by your doctor.

The area affected by the varicose vein may be tender and have slight bruising after radiofrequency ablation. Follow your doctor’s care instructions to ensure a healthy recovery.

How long can you live with heart disease?

Approximately 84 million Americans are living with heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. More than 600,000 people die of heart disease each year, making it the number one cause of death in the United States. However, heart disease is not always a death sentence. Learn how long you can live with heart disease and ways to keep yourself healthy.

What Is Heart Disease?

Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, occurs when the blood vessels that supply oxygenated blood to your heart become blocked or narrowed. Conditions that cause problems with your heart valves or heart rhythm may also be considered forms of heart disease. Heart disease makes you more prone to suffering a heart attack, stroke, or chest pain. In fact, many people do not find out they have heart disease until they experience one of these events.

How Long Can You Live with Heart Disease?

The answer to the question, “How long can you live with heart disease?” is that there is no good answer. Some people with heart disease live for several decades before dying of unrelated causes. Others succumb to a cardiac event within months or years.

The factors that determine your longevity include your genetics, family history, chronic health problems, weight, and lifestyle choices. Some of these factors are outside of your control (like your genes). Others, however, can be changed. Learn what you can do to live longer with heart disease.

Ways to Live Longer with Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease co-occurs with a variety of other medical conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Investing your time and energy in the following lifestyle changes can help you practice good heart care:

  • Eat a healthy diet. The best diet for heart health includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Avoid eating excessive amounts of red meat. Instead, swap fish or beans as sources of protein.
  • Decrease your sodium intake. Sodium is found in a variety of processed foods. Lower your sodium consumption to promote healthier blood pressure and heart health.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking significantly increases your risk of heart disease. It’s never too late to quit. Talk to your doctor about strategies to help you cut back and quit entirely.
  • Aim for a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy body weight places less stress on your cardiovascular system. Ask for a referral to a nutritionist to learn strategies for healthy weight loss.
  • Exercise. Exercising is one of the best things you can do for your heart. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day, most days of the week. You can break exercise into smaller 10-minute chunks if it’s easier to fit into your schedule.

Are Varicose Veins Dangerous When Pregnant?

Pregnancy comes with all kinds of unexpected surprises -- your feet can change size, you’re craving strange foods, and your skin can even change pigmentation. Varicose veins during pregnancy can also come as a surprise. Learn about varicose veins during pregnancy and pregnancy-friendly vein care options.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Your veins bring deoxygenated blood from your body back to your heart to get more oxygen. The blood often travels long distances, like from your feet back up to your chest. When your vein walls become stressed, they can’t quite push the blood back as efficiently as they used to.

This causes blood to pool, leading to bulging and purple- or blue-colored veins. These varicose veins most commonly form in the legs and groin.

Why Do Women Get Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?

Pregnant women are at higher risk for varicose veins. During pregnancy, your uterus gradually grows larger to accommodate the growing baby. As your womb grows, it places pressure on a vein called your inferior vena cava. This is the major vein that carries blood from your lower body back to your heart. As pressure is placed on the vein, it may begin to bulge and develop varicosity. Changes in your body’s hormones also make varicose veins more likely. Specifically, the hormone progestin makes veins wider and more susceptible to varicosities.

About 10 to 20% of women may develop varicose veins during pregnancy. Certain factors make varicose veins more common. For example, if your mother or grandmother developed varicose veins, you are at higher risk. Poor cardiovascular health may also increase your risk.

Varicose Vein Treatment Options During Pregnancy

Many pregnant women wonder about vein treatment options for varicose veins. The best treatment is to prevent varicose veins from developing in the first place. Some factors, like genetics and your uterus growing, are outside of your control. However, taking the following steps may prevent varicose veins during pregnancy:

  • Avoid prolonged periods of sitting or standing, as this causes blood to pool in your legs.
  • Stay physically active, even though the third trimester. Walking, swimming, and body weight exercises can help. Talk to your doctor about safe options for you.
  • Don’t wear high-heeled shoes.
  • Sleep on your left side. Your inferior vena cava runs down the right side of your body, so sleeping on the left reduces pressure on this important vein.
  • Lower your sodium intake to reduce swelling.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Wear maternity support hosiery, which keeps blood flowing in your legs.

The good news is that most women's varicose veins go away within three months after delivery. For this reason, surgical vein treatment during pregnancy is not usually recommended. If veins persist, however, you may want to consider vein treatment. Make an appointment in the early postpartum period to learn about the best vein care treatment options for you.

Can Radiofrequency Ablation for Vein Treatment be Repeated?

If you have had radiofrequency ablation but your varicose vein has returned, you may wonder if you can undergo this vein treatment again.

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive vein treatment. The procedure uses radio waves that create heat to kill, or “ablate,” tissue safely and effectively. The RFA procedure typically takes less than an hour, can be done in an outpatient clinic, and most people do not find radiofrequency ablation to be uncomfortable.

To perform RFA, a vein doctor inserts a small, flexible catheter into the diseased vein then delivers consistent and uniform heat to the walls of the treated vein. The heat contracts the collagen in the walls of the vein, which causes the vein to collapse and close. The treated vein breaks apart and nearby tissue absorbs the remnants of the vein.

Patients can get up and walk around immediately after the procedure. In fact, walking helps speed healing. Patients should avoid strenuous activity for a couple of weeks – since each patient is different, the attending vein doctor recommend a different recovery plan for every patient.

Why Someone Might Need a Repeated Radiofrequency Ablation Procedure

Varicose veins may appear to return after professional vein care for two reasons. First, vein treatment with RFA and other approaches causes the diseased vein to close, and your body routes blood through nearby veins; these nearby veins can also turn into varicose veins and require treatment. Secondly, radiofrequency ablation successfully reduces the appearance in about 90-95 percent of patients, so about 5-10 percent of patients who undergo RFA need a second procedure.

Women who get varicose veins during pregnancy may need repeat treatments after each pregnancy. Gaining weight, sitting or standing for long periods, or having a genetic predisposition can increase a person’s risk for developing varicose veins several times. In these cases, patients need another treatment. Fortunately, Dr. Stevens can repeat radiofrequency ablation if the varicose vein appears to return.

For more information about radiofrequency ablation and repeating RFA, make an appointment with Premier Heart and Vein Care by calling 1-805-979-4777.

How can I take care of my heart naturally?

How can I take care of my heart naturally?

Heart disease is, unfortunately common. But just because you have heart disease - or risk factors for heart disease - that doesn’t mean your life will be filled with medicines and surgeries. In fact, there are plenty of natural heart care options you can incorporate into your daily routine to improve not only your cardiovascular health but your overall health as well.

Natural Heart Care

Maintaining good heart health naturally begins with these simple lifestyle changes:

  1. Eat a healthy diet. Fill up on vegetables and fruits, cut back on processed foods, and reduce your intake of unhealthy fats, refined sugar, and sodium (salt). Check food labels, and keep an eye on cholesterol, which is a primary cause of atherosclerosis (“hardening” of the arteries) and heart disease. Include plenty of healthy fats - fish and nuts are great sources - and lots of whole grains.
  2. Lose those extra pounds. Being overweight or obese can significantly increase your risk for developing heart disease, and often, people who are overweight will have other heart disease risk factors, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Obesity can also increase your risks for other diseases, including arthritis, diabetes, and even depression.
  3. Be more active. Plenty of studies have demonstrated the important role of exercise in maintaining a healthy heart. Exercise improves your blood flow to your heart gets the oxygen and nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Plus, being more physically active makes it easier to shed excess weight, which can also increase your risk of developing heart disease. And finally, regular exercise can even help you reduce stress, which has been implicated in a whole host of diseases, including heart disease. You don’t have to be a pro athlete to reap the benefits of exercise. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise (like walking), five days a week to improve overall cardiovascular health.
  4. Quit smoking. Smoking is bad for your heart, bad for your veins - bad for you. Quitting isn’t easy, but there are products and support groups - including ones that “meet” online - to give you the help and motivation you need to be successful. Make quitting a priority.
  5. Have your heart health evaluated. It’s important to have an annual physical, and it’s also important to see Dr. Stevens for a routine screening, especially if you have a personal or family history of heart disease, or if you have other risk factors, like smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or older age. Dr. Stevens can perform tests that can provide a clear picture of your heart health, and your doctor can also provide you with more tips to help you lead a heart-healthy life.

Learn more about natural heart care.

At Premier Heart and Vein Care, our cardiology team provides state-of-the-art care based on each patient’s individual needs. To learn what you can do to improve your cardiovascular health, call Premier Heart and Vein Care at 1-805-979-4777 and schedule a consultation today.

Which is the Best Treatment for Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins range from very small (spider veins) to large, tortuous veins that cause burning, swelling and leg pain. Although most common in the legs, they can occur anywhere in the body. Most vein treatment in today's world is done on an outpatient basis, but treatment varies according to a number of different factors. Here's what you need to know about vein care and vein treatment, courtesy of Dr. Ken Stevens at Premier Heart and Vein Care.

Varicose Vein Basics

A varicose vein occurs when the tiny tissue flaps called valves to stop doing their jobs. As a result, blood can flow backward and pool in the vein. As the vein becomes distended, it starts to twist and bulge from the increased pressure. You can get a varicose vein anywhere in the body, including inside in places like the esophagus, where they are called esophageal varices. The distended veins are unsightly and can make your legs burn, itch, swell or hurt. In severe cases, you can actually develop leg ulcers from the damaged veins. Very small varicose veins, called spider veins, may occur in places like the face, chest, legs or ankles. Many varicose veins can be diagnosed with a physical examination, but an ultrasound may also be used for confirmation.

Varicose Vein Treatment – Conservative

Self-care and compression stockings are the most common conservative recommendations for varicose veins. Varicose veins often accompany obesity, so losing weight may help. The vein won't go away, but it may get smaller and you'll have fewer symptoms. It may also prevent you from developing more varicose veins. Other strategies – regular exercise to improve circulation, not wearing tight clothes and not spending long hours on your feet – may also be helpful. Specially fitted compression stockings are another self-care strategy.

Varicose Vein Treatment – Interventions

For more severe problems or if conservative strategies don't help, there are office-based procedures available. Some treatments are outpatient surgeries. Among the possibilities are:

Sclerotherapy – an irritant solution is injected into the vein, which collapses and scars closed. Used for spider veins.

Foam sclerotherapy – similar to the above but foam is injected into larger varicose veins.

Laser surgery – lasers can make the vein swell, collapse and scar closed.

Radiofrequency treatment – a special catheter is inserted into the vein, the radiofrequency energy irritates the vein and it scars closed.

Litigation and vein stripping – a minor surgical procedure; the vein is tied off high in the leg and pulled out from the bottom.

Ambulatory phlebectomy – similar to a vein stripping, but the vein is removed in smaller sections.

Endoscopic vein surgery – surgery to remove the vein with a special instrument inserted into the vein.

The best treatment for a varicose vein depends on many things – your age, your physical condition, your symptoms, and the size and location of the vein. Dr. Stevens can asses your situation and make a recommendation that works best for you. Please contact our office for more information or to schedule an appointment.

How long does pain last after vein ablation?

There was a time not too long ago when having your ugly, painful varicose veins treated meant undergoing a surgical procedure, with prolonged downtime and significant discomfort afterward. Thankfully, that’s all changed. Today’s vein treatment procedures use advanced techniques to significantly reduce pain and downtime, and minimally-invasive options offer surprisingly fast recovery time and very few uncomfortable after effects.

Radiofrequency ablation or RFA is one of those minimally-invasive vein treatment options that offer very good results coupled with a fast recovery. During RFA, tiny incisions are made in the skin over the affected vein and a thin fiber is inserted into the vein. The fiber emits controlled bursts of radiofrequency energy, which irritates and damages the vessel lining, causing the vein to close off to the flow of blood.

RFA Recovery: What to Expect

RFA can be performed right in the office as an outpatient procedure, and the incisions are so tiny, they can be closed with bandages and adhesives - no sutures required. Most patients resume many of their normal activities within a day or two.

After your surgery, you’ll need to wear compression hose (or a compression bandage, if the vein isn’t on your leg or foot) for a week or two. Compression helps by preventing fluids from accumulating around the treatment area, speeding healing and keeping swelling and bruising to a minimum. You will have some swelling and bruising, but you can expect these effects to resolve within a few days for the mild swelling to a week or so for bruising.

Many patients are concerned about the level of discomfort they’ll experience after radiofrequency ablation, but there’s good news here, too. Most patients experience only minor discomfort, and only for about a week or two after treatment. There may also be some minor numbness in and around the treatment area, but this too typically lasts for only a few weeks, or until healing in the area is complete.

To help with healing - and also to reduce swelling and discomfort - it’s important to stay active after your surgery. While you’ll need to avoid strenuous physical activity, moderate amounts of regular walking are an idea for ensuring adequate blood flow, which is important for proper healing and to avoid clot formation. Always follow the post-op guidelines provided by the doctor, and never take any medicines - including aspirin and supplements - without speaking with the doctor first.

Put an end to painful, unhealthy varicose veins.

As a leading provider of state-of-the-art vein treatments in and around San Luis Obispo, CA, Premier Heart & Vein Care offers advanced vein care options optimized for each patient's unique and individual needs. If you’re suffering from varicose veins, learn how you can relieve painful symptoms and improve your vascular health. Call Premier Heart & Vein Care at 805-979-4777 and schedule a consultation visit today.

Is radiofrequency ablation considered surgery?

Millions of people suffer from varicose veins, along with symptoms like pain, swelling, and heaviness in the legs and feet. Without proper medical care, those ugly, twisted veins can cause skin changes and stubborn sores, increasing your risk for infection and other serious medical problems. In addition to being physically unattractive, varicose veins can also be a sign of a more serious underlying vein condition, and no matter what, these diseased veins prevent areas of your body from receiving the normal blood flow they need to stay supplied with important nutrients as well as oxygen.

Fortunately, today there are a variety of vein treatment options that can help eliminate varicose veins and restore normal, healthy circulation. One of the most popular options is radiofrequency ablation (or RFA), a state-of-the-art outpatient procedure that offers patients fast results with little to no downtime.

Radiofrequency Ablation: The Procedure

Strictly speaking, you might classify RFA as surgery, but more frequently, it’s referred to as a medical procedure. That’s because unlike many types of surgery that require general anesthesia and large incisions, RFA uses tiny openings in your vein, and it’s most commonly performed under local anesthesia used to numb the area being treated.

Prior to the RFA procedure, your veins are carefully evaluated and “mapped” so Dr. Stevens can plan the best “approach” for removing the damaged vein. Just prior to the procedure, the insertion site is determined, and the area is carefully cleaned, then numbed. Once the area is completely anesthetized, one small incision is made into the skin, and a very thin tube called a catheter is inserted into the vein through an introducer sheath. The catheter serves as a conduit for the RFA energy delivery.

Once the catheter is inserted into the vein, it’s “triggered” to emit tiny, controlled bursts of radiofrequency energy, which in turn heats up the vein lining, damaging it and causing it to collapse or close, preventing the flow of blood through the vein. Once the entire length of the damaged vein is treated, the catheter and introducer sheath are removed, and the incision is closed with a steristrip. No sutures or stitches are needed.

After the procedure, you’ll be observed for a brief period before being discharged. A compression bandage or stocking will be placed over the treatment site to aid in healing, and over time, the sealed-off vein will be absorbed by your body and carried away by your body’s “waste disposal” system. Normal blood flow will be redirected to neighboring healthy veins. During a follow-up visit, your vein will be evaluated to ensure it’s completely sealed.

Learn more about RFA in San Luis Obispo.

Premier Heart & Vein Care is a leading provider of vein care for men and women in and around San Luis Obispo, California. Dr. Ken Stevens and the entire staff provide customized, safe, effective vein treatment to relieve varicose vein symptoms and help patients enjoy optimal health at every age. To learn more about RFA and other vein treatment options or to schedule a vein evaluation, call Premier Heart & Vein Care at 805-979-4777 today.

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