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‘Your Heart Skips a Beat ...’

  • Written by Dr. Maegan Knutson
How often are you aware of your heart beating? Have you ever felt your heart skip a beat? If you haven’t just been love struck it could be a common heart palpitation.

Why is that?

Your heart is truly an amazing electrical organ. On average the heart beats over 100,000 times a day. And nearly 99.99 percent of the time your heart probably beats perfectly. The heart sets the beat of your body; kind of like a drummer keeping time. However, every once in a while your heart can malfunction. Yes, it is totally normal for your heart to “flip flop, ”“flutter” and “skip a beat.” If you’ve noticed this, you should bring it to your doctor’s attention as some heart palpitations are harmless while others are quite concerning. This is why you should have your heart evaluated by a physician every year at an annual physical exam. Yes, I am suggesting that you should meet with your doctor at least once a year. In fact, if you are over 40, you should get an annual electrocardiogram (EKG) screening, even if you have not experienced cardiovascular symptoms.  An EKG screening shows the electrical activity in the heart pulse and can diagnose specific types of heart palpitations, or rule out the heart as the source of a concern.

There are many different kinds of heart palpitations.  Some are triggered by your cardiovascular system, some your nervous system, and some from substances you ingest. You actually have control over many of the triggers that can induce these palpitations. With heart palpitations it would be wise to ensure a high intake of water. Getting dehydrated along with the associated mineral imbalances is a common cause of heart palpitations. It’s important to drink a minimum of 60 ounces of water each day that is balanced with minerals (tap water, spring water, mineral water, etc.). An easy way to keep your minerals balanced is to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Be sure to also reduce or eliminate your intake of caffeine, nicotine and certain drugs such as cocaine & amphetamines which are all common causes of palpitations.

OK, here’s where you get disappointed with the doctor. Caffeine is a really common trigger for palpitations. Living in the Northwest it’s difficult to suggest that anyone should give up coffee or energy drinks since many of us are addicted to the stimulation of caffeine. The good news is that heart palpitations often improve by just reducing your caffeine intake. It is something to think about.

Some heart palpitations are related more to stress on the nervous system. In this case the heart is quite healthy, however there is a problem with the stress hormones and neurotransmitters. Stress hormones, like cortisol, neurotransmitters, and epinephrine (“adrenaline”), can trigger your heart to “skip a beat.” There are tests that can confirm your cortisol and neurotransmitter levels. The treatments for healing the nervous system would often be quite different from treatments directly for the heart. Healing the nervous system can involve counseling, biofeedback, herbal medicine, acupuncture and targeted amino acid therapies.

There are many natural and conventional treatments for palpitations. We already talked about improving hydration and reducing caffeine to get you started. Next, you should consult a naturopathic physician about taking minerals (like potassium and magnesium), fish oils, herbs and nutrients like CoQ10. The need and dosing of these nutrients will be determined by a visit with a physician after reviewing blood work, EKG and physical exam combined with your history.

The heart is a great example where conventional medical technology can pair with natural medicine to serve patients holistically. At Health Moves you will find naturopathic physicians that will listen to your history, perform necessary lab work, EKG testing and treat your heart palpitations and you as an individual. Call Health Moves to get you heart healthy.

Dr. Knutson is a naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist at Health Moves.

The 10 best back-to-school foods to give kids a boost

  • Written by ARA
As children head back to school, it is important to arm them not only with the newest backpacks and pencils, but also with a nutritious diet. While the lure of fast food and quick meals can be enticing, fueling kids with healthy foods and a well-rounded diet can be easier than parents think.

“A new school year provides a great opportunity for parents to teach their kids how to make nutritious choices throughout the day,” says Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician and author of “Feeding Baby Green.” “Whether starting the day off with organic milk or packing school lunches with lots of fruits and veggies, making a conscious choice to focus on nutrition as kids return to the classroom can start with a few simple choices at the grocery store.”

To help parents get their children off to a nutritious start this school year, Horizon, the leading milk brand in the U.S., has partnered with Dr. Greene to develop the following list of the 10 best back to school foods:

The back-to-school top 10:

1. Organic milk

With some studies indicating that only one in 10 girls and one in four boys meet their calcium needs, it’s important to keep calcium-rich foods front and center in kids’ diets. Organic milk, which is produced without the use of antibiotics, toxic synthetic pesticides or artificial growth hormones, is a great choice for lunchboxes and breakfast time. Horizon makes convenient single serve milk boxes that pack perfectly into lunchboxes and provide a nutrient-rich alternative to juice drinks and other nutrient-poor beverages. In addition, Horizon organic milk with DHA omega-3 is a good choice for breakfast beverages or paired with low-sugar, whole grain cereals. DHA omega-3 has been shown to support brain, heart and eye health.

2. Whole grain bread

The new U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that at least half of our grains be whole grains, so choosing whole grains for lunchbox sandwiches and wraps is a smart strategy to boost fiber and other important nutrients. One good choice is Rudi’s Organic Bakery’s 14 Grain bread. With just three slices you get the daily recommended allowance of whole grains.

3. String cheese

Cheese is a good source of calcium and protein. If your child isn’t a meat-eater, cheese is another high-protein option for lunches and snack time. String cheese is a great way to help your kids play with their food by pulling apart the cheese — and they will love munching on it too. Horizon has a variety of cheeses that are great for snacking. Mozzarella String Cheese and Colby Cheese Sticks are both kid-approved favorites.

4. Trail mix fixings

A variety of dried fruits (cherries, cranberries, raisins, dates), nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pistachios) and cereal (look for those high in fiber and low in sugar) can combine into one hearty snack for on-the-go kids. Plus, you can make an activity out of letting your kids create their very own one-of-a-kind mix.

5. Nut butter

Peanut butter, almond butter, hazelnut butter - they’re all great for lunchtime sandwiches or on toast for an after-school snack.

6. Hummus

This protein-packed spread comes in a wide variety of flavors and even in single-serve packs for kids on the go. You can try it as a dip for veggies and whole-grain crackers or as a spread on wraps and sandwiches as a nutritious alternative to mayonnaise or dressing.

7. Granola bars

Granola bars can be a lower-sugar, higher-fiber alternative to cookies and candy bars. They are also great as after-school or after-sports snacks. Look for granola bars made with whole grains and with 10 grams of sugar or less. One bar that fits these criteria is Annie’s Organic Berry Berry Granola Bars. Each bar is packed with 8 grams of whole grain per serving, is certified organic and contains no artificial ingredients, preservatives or high-fructose corn syrup. They’re a perfect snack to replace high sugar treats.

8. Turkey breast

Turkey breast is low in fat and high in protein, and it can be a crowd pleaser in the lunchroom. You can also get creative with turkey as part of after-school snacks - think turkey and cheese roll-ups.

9. Fruit

Apples, cherries, bananas, oranges, grapes — fruits are an important part of a well-balanced diet. Try and vary what you offer. Different fruits provide different nutrients. When looking for organic fruit options, check out Earthbound Farm, which offers a number of organic fruit products nationwide, ranging from apple slices to strawberries to grapes, citrus and blueberries.

10. Veggies

Veggies like carrot sticks, celery, cucumbers, pea pods and cherry tomatoes are all great for lunchboxes and after-school snacks. Remember, the darker the veggie, the more nutritious it tends to be. To spice veggies up, you can think about serving them with a low fat salad dressing or hummus as a dip. In addition to organic fruit, Earthbound Farm also offers a full range of organic veggie products.

For more tips from Dr. Greene, you can visit www.horizondairy.com.

School Sports: Tip to identify and treat concussions

  • Written by ARA

12817_B12_rgbThe crunch of pads followed by a tweet of a whistle, the thump of a basketball with a staccato of footfalls to accompany it and even the thwack of a hockey puck against Plexiglass means one thing: School sports are in season.

Coaches, parents and players are all getting ready for the game and practices are hard and grueling. But many sports involve contact and potential injuries, so coaches and parents need to educate themselves about serious injuries like concussions.

At the professional level, more and more attention is being paid to the hard hits players are taking. The NFL is changing rules on helmet-to-helmet contact in hopes of reducing the number and severity of concussions suffered by players. But, head injuries also happen at much lower levels of play, and can be very serious.

“Coaches and parents need to understand the extreme care that is needed when returning younger athletes to a game or practice who may have experienced a sports concussion,” says Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, chair of the American Academy of Neurology’s Sports Neurology Section and also director of the University of Michigan’s Neurosport program.

Signs of a concussion that can be observed during a game or practice are:

• Behavior or personality change

• False or imagined memories

• Loss of consciousness

• Empty stare

• Disorientation

Athletes may also report the following when suffering a concussion:

• Blurry vision

• Confusion

• Dizziness

• Feeling hazy, foggy or groggy

• Headache

The American Academy of Neurology’s website at www.aan.com/concussion offers two online safety courses created by the University of Michigan Neurosport program and endorsed by the Academy to help high school and youth coaches recognize the signs of concussion and what to do if a player gets a head injury during a game. Each 20-minute safety course is free and a printable certificate is available after passing the online quiz.

Coaches Cards are also downloadable from the Academy’s website providing easy-to-access information on how to spot a concussion and what to do if a player experiences one. Coaches and players are encouraged to keep these cards with their athletic gear for easy access.

Some states have passed laws on managing concussions. If you are a coach or parent of a younger athlete, make sure you educate yourself on the laws and concussion signs to keep the athlete safe.

“If for any reason you suspect an athlete has a concussion, remove the athlete from play and be sure the athlete is carefully evaluated by a person trained in concussion management, such as a neurologist,” Kutcher says. “Rushing this part of the process may lead to a serious setback, or worsen the injury.”

High school and youth sporting events are meant to get athletes playing the games they love. But, a head injury needs to be addressed very carefully in order to ensure the athlete returns to the field safely for many more games to be played, both now and well into the future.

Oh, My Aching Eyes

  • Written by Kerri W. Scarbrough, OD
School is back in swing again, and eyestrain is often close behind. During the summer children’s vision doesn’t have to be subjected to the endurance tests that come with long hours in the classroom, computer use, homework, and less sleep.

Eyestrain in technical terms is called asthenopia, or vague symptoms of eye discomfort. The history is very important in these cases.  Children experiencing eyestrain may complain of headaches, double vision, watery eyes, light sensitivity, seeing spots, or falling asleep while reading. Some relief can be found by closing one eye, laying the head down while reading, or turning the head to the side, effectively blocking the vision in one eye. This keeps the eyes from having to coordinate their movements.  Signs and symptoms such as these should prompt parents to make an appointment for a thorough eye examination.

Vision has two parts:  clarity and comfort. Vision may be clear but not comfortable and effortless. During an examination the doctor will not only check the clarity of the vision for 20/20 in each eye, but will also test eye coordination. Covering and uncovering the eyes, measuring depth perception, looking for a head turn or tilt, measuring eye drift, observing a chin lift or depression, or seeing squinting are all means of detecting adaptations to eyestrain. Attention spans can be directly related to the amount of effort it takes for a child to read or perform near activities. If a child is uncomfortable, no amount of coercion can generate increased effort.

Often eyestrain in children or adults is eased quickly and effectively with appropriate glasses.  Because the visual demand increases up close, glasses are usually needed only for reading or computer.  Sometimes bifocals are prescribed so one does not have to remove the glasses for mixed-distance activities. Wearing glasses does not increase a person’s dependence on glasses or change the ultimate need for them in the future. The ideal situation is that the sufferer reaches for the glasses before the onset of a headache or eyestrain rather than waiting until he is miserable.

Ergonomic changes such as increased lighting, better posture, eye lubrication, and print quality and size can make substantial differences in overall visual load.Be prepared with samples of difficult tasks. For accuracy ask someone else measure the working distance from the computer or the book and bring that information to the eye examination.

Eye exercises, too, can in some cases ease eyestrain, but only as long as they are done properly.The easiest thing to do is 20/20/20 — every twenty minutes take a twenty second break by looking 20 feet away. This can eliminate eyestrain and discomfort in many cases. Also moving the body around, shrugging the shoulders and blinking the eyes several times can break up the lactic acid which accumulates in muscles held stationary too long.

Eyestrain can be difficult to pin down but once addressed can bring great relief and increased stamina. Get a thorough eye examination, address ergonomic challenges, wear lenses specifically geared toward the cause of the eyestrain and many happier work hours are in store for you.

Kerri W. Scarbrough, OD is the owner and doctor at Eagle Eye Vision Care in Woodinville.

Dinner makes a difference in fighting childhood obesity

  • Written by ARA
13608_B226_rgbAs families have gotten busier, traditional mealtimes have become more of a novelty than a necessity. While careers and activities keep many away from the family dinner, missing those meals is leaving more of an impact than many suspect.

While many acknowledge that sitting down to eat creates family bonds and opens lines of communication, many don’t realize that missing those meals can contribute to childhood obesity.

The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control shows that more than a third of U.S. adults are obese. Perhaps more alarming is that the number of obese children has tripled in the past 30 years, to 17 percent. Because of all of the associated health risks of obesity, it is possible that the current generation of children may be the first generation whose life expectancy will not be greater than their parents.

"In terms of healthy eating habits, family meals are one of the most powerful tools available. Research has consistently shown that children and adolescents who eat more family meals are less likely to be overweight or obese. In addition, children who eat dinner with their families consume more fruits and vegetables than those who don’t," says Sherry Rieder, Ph.D., an obesity expert and assistant professor in Argosy University’s College of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences online programs. "If children learn about realistic food portions and healthy food options from a young age at family dinnertime, they are more likely to carry these habits with them into adulthood."

In addition, regular and routine family meals add needed structure to a child’s day. "In my family, we have a designated dinner time," says Victoria Hooker, assistant director of Culinary Arts at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Dallas, a branch of South University. "There’s no snacking before dinner, which means I know my family will be ready to fill up on a good meal as opposed to eating junk food. Family meal time is something parents can do now to fight childhood obesity. What’s best is that they can do it without any outside advice or help."

Rieder agrees and adds, "Getting kids involved in preparing food is a great way to teach them about healthy and balanced eating. Children are far more likely to eat food that they helped prepare — so get them to help prepare vegetables. Focus on consuming fruits and vegetables whenever possible and avoid sweetened drinks like sodas and juices."

For busy families who may not have much time to cook, a little planning can go a long way. "Even if the whole family cannot sit down at one time, eating home made meals is often a better alternative than eating take out food," says Rieder. "One trick is to try to stock up on some easy-to-prepare meals at home for those evenings when everyone is running late and feeling the stress of a long day. Another alternative is to prepare extra portions when cooking meals and freeze half."

When you simply can’t be home for dinner, Hooker advises families to plan and pack food ahead of time. "With today’s busy lifestyles, it is almost impossible to eat at home seven days a week, but families can make it a priority to eat at home five nights a week. When you do have to eat on the run, make healthy choices. Institute family rules like fried food only once a week," she says.