Holiday Food Overload and How It Affects Your Heart

The holidays are a time of joy… and a lot of food. Binging on sugar, fat, and salt can send you into “holiday food overload.” While indulging in rich meals, cookies, candies, and the occasional eggnog seems delectable at the time, overeating during the holidays can have negative consequences on your heart and on your overall health.

Holiday meals tend to be very high in calories. There are more than 3,000 calories in the typical Thanksgiving turkey meal, according to the Calorie Control Council. That’s more calories in just one meal than the average man or woman should consume in an entire day to maintain their weight. Eat several of these high-calorie meals over the holiday season, and you could gain several pounds.

These holiday meals also provide more than twice as much fat as you should consume in an entire day. Eating fatty foods can increase your “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, which the American Heart Association says can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Cholesterol can build up inside the walls of your blood vessels to constrict how much blood flows through them.

Holiday meals and treats often contain large amounts of sugar. Excessive levels of sugar in the body, even for short periods, can have a toxic effect on the body. High sugar levels are especially harmful to the cells lining the blood vessels. Elevated blood sugar levels can raise blood pressure and increase inflammation. High blood pressure and inflammation increase your risk for heart disease because your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your blood vessels.

Salt is another holiday staple that can be hard on your heart. Sodium hides in nearly all holiday foods, from pretzels and crackers to nuts and packaged foods. Eating salty foods increases blood pressure to increase the risk of heart disease.

Eating too much food and indulging in alcohol can cause “holiday heart syndrome.” In this condition, people who drink alcohol and eat too much or consume too much salt experience an irregular heartbeat. This abnormal heart rhythm, known as atrial fibrillation, can be quite dangerous.

For more information on holiday food overload and for tips on how to avoid it, talk with a healthcare professional. Schedule an appointment with Virtual Imaging today by calling 770.730.0119 to ensure your health is in good shape.

How to Have a Heart-Conscious Halloween for Kids and for Adults

It is so easy for adults and children to load up on sweets and other unhealthy foods on Halloween, and many seasonal favorites are not heart-healthy. Many Halloween candies and treats are high in saturated fat, which can cause higher cholesterol levels that can lead to clogged arteries and heart problems.

Heart health is important for older adults, but it is also increasingly important in children. Eating a heart-healthy diet from an early age lowers cholesterol, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. If continued through adolescence and into adulthood, eating a heart-healthy diet should reduce a child’s risk of coronary artery disease later in life.

Many people view Halloween as a health problem for kids, but it can also be a tricky time for adults attending parties or encountering holiday treats at work. Parents may be tempted to sneak treats from their kids’ bags or snack on candy leftover from trick-or-treating.

Fortunately, there are ways to have a heart-conscious Halloween.

10 Tips for a Heart-Healthy Halloween

  1. Sneak in a healthy snack before going to parties. Having a small snack before answering the door during trick-or-treating can also prevent you from nibbling from the candy bowl.
  2. Create traditions that shift the focus away from candy. Put the emphasis on decorations, movies or costumes instead.
  3. Bag the monster-sized candy sack and opt for a smaller bag instead. Never use a pillowcase.
  4. Encourage your trick-or-treaters to choose just one piece of candy from each home so that they can visit more houses.
  5. Make a heart-conscious game out of walking when taking the kids Trick-or-Treating. Set a goal of how many houses you want to visit, for example, and stick to it. Compete in teams or try to beat the previous year’s record.
  6. Walk from house to house instead of driving.
  7. Look for houses displaying a teal pumpkin, as this is a sign that the residents give out non-food items. The Teal Pumpkin Project started as a way to give kids with allergies a safe alternative to trick-or-treat candy, but everyone is welcome to trick-or-treat at homes displaying teal pumpkins.
  8. Dress up healthy snacks in a Halloween theme. Decorate oranges like Jack-O-Lanterns, for example, or make apple monster mouths, carrot witch fingers, banana ghosts and berry ghouls.
  9. Schedule physical activities. Hold a zombie dance party or create games, such as a three-legged monster race, pumpkin toss, or a spider crawl.
  10. Adults can schedule a heart scan to determine their heart health. Discovering that you have a heart problem can be scary, but early detection can lead to early treatment.

For more information on heart health, contact your nutritionist or doctor. Schedule an appointment with Virtual Imaging today by contacting us here.

Encourage Circulation in Colder Weather

Winter brings colder temperatures and, in some places, ice and snow.

Plummeting temperatures can turn nearly any landscape into a winter wonderland with brisk air, ice, and snow. Cold weather can also affect how blood flows in your body.

One of the greatest dangers in winter is losing body heat, especially around your vital organs. Your body prevents heat loss and protects vital organs from cold temperatures by pulling blood – and its warmth – towards the core of your body. It does this by constricting blood vessels in your extremities when the air around you drops to 59º Fahrenheit or lower.

While constriction of your blood vessels keep your vital organs warm, it leaves less blood in your extremities, which means that the tissues in your arms and legs are not getting the warm, oxygen-rich blood they need.

Colder weather also causes your heart and circulatory system to work harder. Narrowed blood vessels causes higher blood pressure, as your body has to move the same volume of blood around inside skinner blood vessels. Your heart also has to work harder to pump your blood through those narrowed vessels.

Stimulating your circulation help keep those blood vessels open to reduce blood pressure and extra workload on your heart associated with colder weather.

Ways to Stimulate Circulation in Colder Weather

Stay Warm

Stay inside during cold weather. Wear layers of appropriate clothing, which traps heat near your skin, when you must venture out into the cold. Insulated, water-resistant gloves and boots help keep your hands and feet warm and dry.

Keep Moving

Engage in moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk, to stimulate circulation. Avoid overdoing it, though, as exercising in the cold puts additional strain on your heart. This is especially true for those who are otherwise sedentary – people who do not exercise regularly should avoid shoveling heavy snow, for example, as the exertion puts extra stress on the circulatory system and heart, and could even cause a heart attack.

Drink Plenty of Water

Staying hydrated in cold weather is as important as getting enough fluids in the heat of summer. While steaming hot cocoa, tea, or coffees are tempting, they can add a lot of unwanted calories, sugar, and caffeine into your system. Coffee and tea are also diuretics, which mean they cause your body to get rid of water.

Stay Healthy

Keep your heart and blood vessels in top working order. Take prescription medications as directed, for example, especially medications to control blood pressure or cholesterol. Eat a low fat, heart healthy diet that helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Schedule a heart scan to detect and treat any problems early, before you venture into the cold or shovel that snow.

Excellent circulation can help you stay warm and avoid health problems. For more information on stimulating circulation in cold weather, consult with your doctor, physical therapist or other health care professional. Schedule an appointment with Virtual Imaging today by calling 770-730-0119.

Signs of Poor Circulation

Good circulation is essential for good health. Every beat of your heart pumps blood through the approximately 60,000 miles of blood vessels that make up your circulatory system. Your arteries deliver oxygen-rich blood to the cells of your body and your veins carry away deoxygenated blood and toxins.

Signs and Symptoms of Poor Circulation

Poor circulation can cause a variety of signs and symptoms. Some of the symptoms can negatively affect the quality of your life, with discomfort or other symptoms preventing you from working, taking care of your family, or engaging in your favorite activities. In some cases, poor circulation can use serious complications.

Numbness or Tingling in Your Hands or Your Feet

Numbness, tingling or “pins and needles” sensations can occur when blood cannot reach your extremities in adequate quantities

Cold Hands and Feet

Cold extremities are the result of reduced blood flow to your hand and feet.

Swelling in Your Feet, Ankles, and Legs

Poor circulation in veins can cause fluid to accumulate in various areas in your body, particularly in your lower legs, ankles and feet. Doctors refer to this swelling as “edema,” and it can be a serious condition. Edema may develop as the result of heart failure, for example, where the heart cannot circulate the blood throughout the body adequately. Edema can also develop as the result of blood clots in the affected area.

Memory Loss, Trouble Concentrating

Poor blood circulation can prevent your brain from getting the blood it needs, and this can lead to memory loss and difficulty with concentration. Reduce blood flow to your brain, reduce blood flow throughout your body, or certain changes in blood pressure can cause these cognitive symptoms.

Digestive Problems

Digestion relies on an adequate flow of blood, so circulatory problems may cause digestive symptoms, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stools, constipation, or cramping.

Unexplained Fatigue

Poor circulation prevents cells from getting the nutrients they need to function well, causing you to feel exhausted.

Joint and Muscle Cramping

Muscle and joint cells can cramp when starved of the nutrients normally delivered by the circulatory system.

Changes in Skin Color

Poor nutrient deliver can cause skin tissue to turn pale or blue; leaky capillaries can cause skin to turn purple. The nose, lips, ears, nipples, hands, and feet are the most likely areas to become discolored due to circulatory problems.

Ulcers or Sores on Your Feet or Legs

Poor circulation can interfere with healing, which means tiny sores can turn into big problems.

Varicose Veins

One of the most common circulatory problems is varicose veins, which are bloated, twisted veins that appear on the back of your legs.

Fortunately, vein doctors can effectively treat most vein problems to alleviate signs and symptoms of poor circulation. If you experience any of these signs, or if you want more information about circulation, contact your doctor. Early diagnosis with medical imaging and early treatment can resolve most circulatory problems in their earliest stages, when they are easiest to treat. Schedule an appointment with Virtual Imaging today by contacting us here.

Are You Worried About Your Colon Health? It May be Time for Screening

Are you worried about the health of your colon? Have you noticed a change in your bowel habits? It may be time for screening.

You probably already know that colon health is important. Your colon, or large intestine, has two important jobs: re-absorbing fluids and processing waste products in preparation for eliminating them from your body. Like other parts of your body, your colon is at risk for disease. One of the most serious diseases affecting this part of the digestive tract is cancer of the colon or rectum, known collectively as colorectal cancer. Screening can help detect colorectal cancer and other conditions that affect the colon.

Screening is a procedure that looks for signs of a disease before a patient has symptoms. Colon cancer screening checks for cancer of the colon.

But, when is it time for screening? It may be sooner than you think, especially if you have worrisome symptoms or are at higher risk for colon cancer or other colon problems.

Time for Colon Screening

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF) recommends that people ages 50 to 75 undergo screening for colorectal cancer. The decision to undergo colorectal cancer screening in people 76 to 85 is an individual choice, based on the person’s overall health and their prior screenings. If you are in this older age group, you may want to undergo colon cancer screening if you are healthy enough for treatment and you do not have other conditions that would significantly limit your life expectancy.

How often you undergo routine screening depends on the test and your personal risk factors. You may choose to do a routine stool test every 1 – 3 years, or a flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 – 10 years, colonoscopy every 10 years, or a virtual colonoscopy every 5 years.

You should undergo colon screening earlier or more often if you have certain factors that put you at higher risk of colon problems. Risk factors for colon cancer include:

  • Older age – most people with colon cancer are over the age of 50
  • African American race
  • Personal or family history of colon cancer
  • Personal history of polyps

If you are experiencing colon problems, such as changes in bowel habits or bleeding, your doctor may recommend colon screening.

For more information on colon screening, and what type of screening test you should undergo, consult with your doctor and schedule an appointment with Virtual Imaging by calling 770-730-0119.

What is Atherosclerosis?

When the arteries become narrow due to excessive plaque buildup, a potentially life-threatening condition known as atherosclerosis develops. Plaque is trapped in the arteries when the endothelium, or thin layer of cells that keeps the walls smooth, is damaged and allows the bad cholesterol to perch.

As the plaque continue to build on the arterial walls, blood flow slows, decreasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients through the body. When this occurs, heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular disease risk are greatly increased.

A person may recognize the presence of atherosclerosis during adolescence when white blood cells begin to appear on the artery wall. If the atherosclerosis develops in the carotid arteries, a person may experience:

  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Facial numbness
  • Paralysis

If the condition affects another type of artery, these symptoms may occur:

  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hair loss on legs or feet
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Swelling of hands and feet

High blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, air pollution, and high blood sugar are all causes of atherosclerosis. Thankfully, lifestyle changes to maintain a healthy weight can reduce risk of cardiovascular event from atherosclerosis. In more severe cases, doctors may recommend medication or surgery.

Atherosclerosis can be detected by a computed tomography (CT) scan, which uses X-ray images to create detailed pictures of the inside of the body. The noninvasive CT scan can even detect atherosclerosis in asymptomatic individuals.

“It can improve a person’s odds in the cardiac lottery of life before the sudden heart attack or death. It documents the cumulative effect of all coronary risk factors, conventional and those not yet known,” says Dr. Eva Chomka, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center.

If you believe you may be at risk for atherosclerosis, visit us at to learn more about this state-of-the-art technology.

Understanding Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death of American men and women. Annually, it claims about 600,000 lives. The term cardiovascular disease, often used interchangeably with heart disease and abbreviated as CVD, describes several diseases that affect the health of the heart and blood vessels.

Common Forms of CVD

These types of cardiovascular disease are caused by atherosclerosis, a process that causes the buildup of plaque on walls inside the arteries:

  • Heart Attack: The result of blood clots forming and blocking blood flow. As blood flow is limited, the heart’s muscles begin to die, resulting in a heart attack.
  • Ischemic Stroke: This common form of stroke occurs when blood clots block blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen, and other nutrients to the brain. As a result of the lack of blood flow and impending stroke, brain cells die.

Non-Atherosclerosis Related CVD

  • Arrhythmia: A form of CVD that affects the heart’s ability to beat with normal rhythm. A rhythm that’s too slow, too fast, or irregular can stifle the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively.
  • Heart Failure: This CVD results from the body not being able to pump enough blood throughout the body. When this happens, the body’s cells don’t receive the oxygen or nutrients that they need.


Although each form of cardiovascular disease has its own specific symptoms, the following symptoms are common to each type:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat


Luckily, there are things you can do to help reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. An individual’s cholesterol levels, blood pressure, heredity, and smoking history can help determine CVD risk. Virtual Imaging also offers the EBCT C300 scanner as a method of CVD detection. This device is 10 times more accurate at predicting CVD than observing risk factors. Early detection can greatly increase chances of prevention.

If you’re concerned about your heart’s health, call Virtual Imaging today at (770) 730-0119 and ask about our EBCT imaging technology.


EBCT Testing Finds Coronary Calcium Before Serious Health Problems Develop

Coronary calcium (plaque that builds up in the arteries of the heart) is a silent condition that can have very serious consequence. Excessive coronary calcium can lead to sudden and catastrophic health problems, including heart attack or death. Fortunately, electron beam computed tomography (EBCT) detects calcium buildup in the coronary arteries before plaque has major consequences.

An EBCT scan is a noninvasive imaging test to detect coronary calcium. The EBCT scan uses x-rays to take pictures of the patient’s heart and these pictures may show areas of calcification on the coronary arteries. The scan looks for smaller specks of calcium (“calcifications” or “plaque”) in the walls of the coronary arteries.

Coronary calcifications are an early sign of coronary artery disease (“CAD”), also known as coronary atherosclerosis. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and CAD is the most common type of heart disease. Coronary heart disease claims the lives of 370,000 people in the United States each year.

In atherosclerosis, plaque builds up inside arteries and calcifies. Calcification hardens and narrows arteries in such a way that reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles of the heart. Reduced oxygen and blood flow may cause chest pain or discomfort known as “angina”. Plaques may rupture or break free and a blood clot may form on its surface. A large clot can block the coronary artery partially or completely, leading to a heart attack. Plaque can also contribute to the hardening and narrowing of the coronary arteries over time. CAD can also lead to arrhythmias (an irregular heart rate or rhythm), or heart failure where the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.

Coronary artery disease often causes no symptoms. In many cases, EBCT and other medical tests are they only way patients know they have a heart problem.

Who Should Have an EBCT Coronary Calcium Scan?

An EBCT is appropriate for those with an elevated risk for coronary calcium, including people with:

  • A family history of heart disease
  • Abnormal blood cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Unhealthy lifestyle


What to Expect During An EBCT Coronary Calcium Scan

A patient undergoes an EBCT by lying still on the scanner machine for five to ten minutes as the scan records images of the heart. There are no special preparations for this test, although a doctor may request that a patient avoid caffeine and smoking for at least 4 hours before the procedure.

Scanning for coronary calcium may save a life. If you or someone you know is at high risk for coronary calcium, make an appointment for an EBCT scan today.

Call 770.730.0119 today to schedule your preventative screening with Virtual Imaging!

Detecting Colon Cancer

Understanding Colon Cancer

There are forces trying desperately to steal away the most precious years of your life. And one of those forces is colon cancer. Maybe you think that because you don’t have a family history of the disease, you’re home free. The truth is the most important risk factor for colorectal cancers is age. Seventy-five percent of colorectal cancers occur in those with no family or personal history. Other risk factors may include a high-fat diet, physical inactivity, obesity and smoking.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women today and the number one cause of cancer deaths in non-smokers. According to the American Cancer Society, there are more than 98,000 new cases each year. The survival rate is greater than 90% if detected early, when cancers are limited to the bowel wall at the time of diagnosis. The risk of colon polyps developing into a true cancer is directly related to size, so finding polyps in their early stage is crucial.

Identifying the Problem

Colon cancer is sneaky. Symptoms suggesting the presence of colon cancer (rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea and weight loss) are often found only in advanced stages of the disease. The survival rate may improve if the cancer is detected in its earliest stages; but most people who have early colon cancer have no symptoms and feel fine so therefore don’t seek medical attention. Precursor lesions, such as colon polyps or small adenomas, generally precede the development of cancer by several years to a decade or more.
Because 75% of colon cancer is found in those at “average” risk, most physicians recommend a screening at least by age 50, and even at an earlier age if there is a family history of premature colon cancer.

Taking the Right Steps

A virtual colonoscopy using the EBT C300 scanner, exclusively available at the Virtual Imaging Inc Diagnostic Center, is a method involving multiple, thin X-ray sections of the area. It has proven to be an effective method of screening the “average” risk patient who is without symptoms, as well as those with a positive family history of colon cancer. The current “prep” is gentler than a standard colonoscopy; no sedation is needed, it is non-invasive, so it presents no risk of bowel puncture, and the patient can return home or to work immediately after the scan.
Talk to your doctor about the Virtual Imaging Inc EBT ColonScan. Or for more detailed information, call Virtual Imaging Inc at 770 730 0119. Whether or not you have a family history of the disease, don’t let cancer deprive you of creating your own family history.

Big City Living Can Mean Big Breathing Problems

Big cities offer an endless variety of housing, transportation, factories, parks, and office buildings. These urban areas also have air pollution that can cause breathing problems. In fact, the American Lung Association produces a State of the Air report each year, which includes a list of the most polluted cities in the United States.

About Air Pollution in Cities

Air pollution may be the result of small particles in the air, known as particle pollution, and ozone. Particle pollution is an environmental condition in which tiny specks of solids and liquids float in the air. Dust stirred up on roadways and everyday construction, particularly those that involve grinding or crushing, can create coarse dust particles that can be as large as 10 micrometers in diameter, which is about 0.000393701 inches across. Processes that involve combustion, such as motor vehicles, power plants, and some industrial processes can create fine particles measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller.

Breathing in these particles can increase the risk of lung cancer, according to the American Lung Association. Inhaling particulate matter can also cause heart attacks, strokes, visits to the emergency department, and even early death for people with asthma, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease. Living near traffic increases your risk. Both ozone and particulate matter are associated with an increased risk of lower birth weight in newborns.

While people with lung problems or heart disease are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution in urban areas, healthy people can experience the effects of particulate matter in the air they breathe. Inhaling particulate matter can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and even reduced lung function.

Cars, trucks, trains power plants, refineries, industrial boilers, chemical plants, and other sources can produce pollution that, in the presence of sunlight, reacts chemically to create ground-level ozone. When it occurs in Earth’s lower atmosphere, the ozone molecule (O3) is harmful to air quality. Ozone, also known as smog, can damage the lungs.

Breathing ozone irritates your lungs, causing an effect that is somewhat like sunburn within your lungs. This irritation can lead to shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks, increased risk of respiratory infections, heart problems, and more.

If you or someone you know lives in a big city and you are concerned about the effects that urban life will have on your respiratory health, speak with your doctor. You may benefit from an electron beam computerized tomography (EBCT) of your lungs. This non-invasive test can help your doctor detect signs of lung damage, diagnose the cause of your cough or other respiratory symptoms, and develop a treatment plan that helps you breathe easy in the big city. Optimize your health and contact Virtual Imaging, Inc. today and schedule a scan for cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and colon cancer.