How Does Coffee Affect Your Cardiovascular Health?

Coffee may be an essential part of your morning routine. It wakes you up and gives you the energy to face your day. But have you ever given any thought to how coffee affects the health of your heart? Here is what you need to know about coffee and its ingredients.

Caffeine is the primary active ingredient in coffee – it is what gives you your get-up-and-go. The caffeine in your coffee causes a number of metabolic effects, which means caffeine affects several body systems. It stimulates your central nervous system, for example, which means it “wakes up” the nerves of your brain and spinal cord. Caffeine releases fatty acids from adipose tissue, so your cup of joe can help your body burn fat. The caffeine in your morning mug can also affect your kidneys to increase urination.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Coffee on Your Heart Health

There are some drawbacks to drinking coffee. Stimulating the central nervous system can make you feel nervous, anxious, or stressed, especially if you are not used to the effects of caffeine. Coffee might even make it hard to sleep, and the National Sleep Foundation says that sleep deprivation can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.

Drinking coffee can increase your heart rate, which can cause strain on your heart. Consuming coffee can raise your blood pressure too, especially if you are not used to the effects of caffeine.

Increased urination can lead to dehydration, which can cause strain on your heart. Dehydration causes a decrease in the overall volume of blood coursing through your body. To compensate for the lower blood volume, your heart must beat faster. This causes a faster heart rate and may even cause palpitations, which means you feel a noticeably rapid, pounding, or irregular heartbeat.

Your cup of coffee may be adding to your overall caffeine intake each day. Other foods and beverages, such as tea, certain soft drinks, chocolate, and some nuts also contain caffeine.

Researchers are still investigating whether high caffeine intake through coffee and other sources might increase your risk of coronary heart disease, a condition in which waxy plaque builds up in the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart.

Drinking one to two cups of coffee each day does not seem to be harmful to the heart, according to the American Heart Association. In fact, Johns Hopkins cites research that says that coffee drinkers are less likely to die from coronary heart disease, stroke, and several other serious conditions. The research also suggests that drinking one to two cups of coffee a day may help reduce your risk of heart failure, which is a condition where your heart is too weak to pump blood well.

In addition to caffeine, coffee contains other substances that may be good for your cardiovascular system. Coffee contains antioxidants, for example, which fight the damaging effects of free radicals. Other active substances in coffee can reduce internal inflammation and protect you against disease.

You should not drink coffee if you have certain heart problems, such as heart failure. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you think you have heart problems and wonder if coffee is right for you. Your doctor can order tests, such as a EBCT Heart Scan, to evaluate the health of your heart. Optimize your health and contact Virtual Imaging, Inc. today and schedule a scan for cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and colon cancer. 

5 Everyday Foods with Hidden Sugar

Eating too much sugar can have devastating health consequences. Excessive sugar intake can cause unwanted weight gain, for example, and it can lead to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other serious health conditions.

The American Heart Association suggests that women limit their sugar intake to 100 calories and that men limit their sugar intake to 150 calories daily, which works out to about or about 6 teaspoons per day for women and nine teaspoons per day for men.

Nutritionists discuss sugar in terms of grams. One teaspoon of sugar contains four grams. This works out to 24 grams per day for women and 36 grams of sugar daily for men.

If you are like many people, you are trying to reduce the amount of sugar you consume. The first step is to estimate how much sugar you actually consume every day. It is easy to underestimate sugar consumption, though, as sugar often hides in unexpected places — even in foods you would not consider sweet.

Look for Sugar Hiding in these Five Foods

  1. Low-fat yogurt

    Yogurt can be a highly nutritious food, but it can be high in sugar. This is especially true in low-fat yogurt.

    You might be surprised to learn that foods marked “light” or “low-fat” often have higher sugar content than do the regular versions, as a scoop or two of sugar helps make up for the bland flavor of the low-fat food. Check the sugar content on the yogurt label – you may be better off with full-fat, natural, or Greek yogurt.

  2. Condiments

    BBQ sauce, ketchup, and other condiments can contain large amounts of sugar. In fact, two tablespoons of BBQ sauce can contain 14 grams of sugar – that’s three tablespoons of sugar in a two-tablespoon serving of sauce. While ketchup contains less sugar – only about a teaspoon of sugar in every teaspoon of ketchup – it still adds unnecessary sugar to your diet.

  3. Spaghetti sauce

    Tomatoes make spaghetti sauce naturally sweet, but many manufacturers add sugar to make their sauce tastier.

  4. Flavored coffee

    Flavored coffee from a coffeehouse can contain a staggering amount of sugar – up to 25 teaspoons.

  5. Granola

    Granola is another health food that can contain nuts, honey, and other sweeteners. In fact, a 100-calorie serving of granola can contain more than six teaspoons of sugar.

If you are concerned that sugar has caused health problems, consult with a health professional. Blood tests can help you doctor determine if you have diabetes, while heart screening tests can help evaluate any cardiovascular effects. Optimize your health and contact Virtual Imaging, Inc. today and schedule a scan for cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and colon cancer. 

National Red Wine Day: The Heart-Healthy Benefits of Red Wine

Red wine lovers have yet another reason to celebrate this year — a day of national recognition for their favorite libation! National Red Wine Day is on August 28. Many red wine drinkers also celebrate the potential health benefits red wine may have on their hearts. Others worry that drinking red wine may increase their risk for health problems.

While too much alcohol can have harmful effects on your body, doctors agree that something in red wine seems to help your heart.

The Connection between Red Wine and Cardiovascular Health

The idea that red wine could be good for your heart began in the late 1980s with the “French Paradox,” in which scientists noted that the people of France had a relatively low incidence of heart disease despite their consumption of foods high in dietary fat and cholesterol.

Wine is an optional component of the Mediterranean Diet, which is a heart-healthy diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, pasta, rice, and very little meat.

The results of many studies suggest that drinking red wine can improve cardiovascular health. Many of these studies point to the antioxidants in red wine. Antioxidants are substances that inhibit oxidation that cause free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage body cells to cause disease.

The incidence of heart disease is lower in people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol, according to the American Heart Association, which defines moderate consumption as no more than one 4-oz glass of wine per day for women and no more than two glasses per day for men.

Consuming more alcohol than that actually increases your risk for high blood pressure and stroke. Imbibing too often or drinking too much can also cause an irregular heartbeat.

Certain people are more vulnerable to health risks associated with regular consumption of red wine. Those with a history of alcohol abuse or alcoholism should not drink wine, of course, and people with liver disease or certain other diseases should avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol may cause muscle aches in people taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. Wine also contains sugar and calories, which are concerns for people with diabetes or who are trying to lose weight.

Give your heart a reason to celebrate this National Red Wine Day with a heart scan to determine if your heart is healthy enough to drink red wine. Optimize your health and contact Virtual Imaging, Inc. today and schedule a scan for cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and colon cancer. 

5 Ways Strengthening Your Core Benefits Your Overall Health

Your core is more than just a group of abdominal muscles – it acts as the center link of a chain connecting your upper and lower body. A strong core gives you a competitive edge in sports, but it also helps you do everyday activities while benefiting your overall health.

Your core muscles include the front abdominal muscles, muscles along the sides of your body, a deep muscle that wraps around the front of your body, and the muscles that run along your spine and between the bones of your spine. Your diaphragm, the muscle that helps you breathe, and the pelvic floor muscles that support your organs are also core muscles.

5 Ways a Stronger Core Improves Your Overall Health

  1. Less back pain

    Core muscles play a major role in stabilizing your body. If you have weak core muscles, your body has to rely on the passive structures in your back, such as the bones, ligaments, and rubbery discs for stability. Relying on these structures, rather than on core muscles, can cause back pain.

  2. Improved balance

    Your core muscles stabilize your body and help you move in nearly every direction without losing your balance. This helps prevent falls that can cause life-altering injuries.

  3. Better exercise performance

    Physical activity is good for your overall health. However, exercise is only beneficial when performed correctly and weak core muscles can prevent you from efficiently exercising. Keeping your core muscles strong helps your body move the way it was meant to, prevents debilitating back injuries, and improves your breathing so that you get the most out of your workout.

  4. Better breathing

    Your diaphragm plays an essential role in breathing – contracting the diaphragm muscle pulls oxygen-rich air into your lungs. Other core muscles, like those in your abdomen and back, help you exhale to get rid of carbon dioxide and other toxins. Strong core muscles help you bring in more oxygen and exhale more efficiently.

  5. Healthier heart

    Exercise can improve the health of your heart and help prevent heart disease. Maintaining a strong core keeps you moving.

Whether you are a novice who is just taking the first steps towards fitness or an elite athlete, a strong core is one of the most important things you can do to improve your overall health. For more information on strengthening your core, speak with a health professional. Schedule an appointment with Virtual Imaging, Inc today by calling 770-730-0119 or by reaching us here.

Top 5 Summer Foods That Improve Cardiovascular Health

From fresh food to outdoor activities, summer is a great season for cardiovascular health.

The arrival of summer means days at the pool, outdoor activities, and family picnics. Summer also provides extra opportunities to improve your heart health. The warm weather and longer days allow you to squeeze in more exercise, for example. The season also gives you a chance to enjoy your favorite summer foods. Here are the top five summertime foods that can improve your cardiovascular health.

The Five Sensational Summer Foods You Need for a Healthier Heart

  1. Avocados

    Avocados are a heart healthy alternative to butter or mayonnaise. Slathering on a ¼ cup serving of pureed avocados or tossing a one-quarter cup of diced avocados onto a salad provides six grams of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, yet it is only 90 calories, which is less than a tablespoon of mayo or butter. Monounsaturated fat can lower cholesterol, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

  2. Tomatoes

    Tomatoes are one of summer’s tastiest heart-healthy foods. There is a wide variety of fresh tomatoes available from July to October. Anything, from cherry tomatoes to Roma tomatoes, are grown during those months. Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which helps protect your body cells from damage and may also lower your cholesterol.

  3. Salmon

    Eating a 4-ounce serving of wild-caught salmon two times each week supplies you with all the essential omega-3 fatty acids you need for cardiovascular health. These fatty acids help to lower your risk of sudden cardiac death, reduce the formation of blood clots, and slow the accumulation of plaque in your arteries. Omega-3 fatty acids can also decrease triglycerides, which are a type of fat.

  4. Dark leafy greens

    Dark leafy greens are not just for salads anymore! Your summer sandwich cries out for fresh red or green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, or spinach. Add kale, collards, turnip greens, Swiss chard, and red or green cabbage to your favorite salads or summertime dishes. Dark leafy greens have the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants your heart needs for good health. These greens are also low in calories, with a cup of raw spinach providing only 7 calories.

  5. Fresh fruit

    Is there anything better than fresh fruit on a hot summer day? Probably not! A serving of fresh fruit is the ultimate refreshment on a hot day, and it helps your heart stay healthy. Diets rich in fruits can help lower your blood pressure. The water in fruit can also keep you hydrated on hot days.

For more information on the best foods to eat for optimal heart health, speak with a doctor, nutritionist, or other health professional. Schedule an appointment today with Virtual Imaging, Inc by calling 770-730-0119.

8 Benefits of Taking Daily Walks

“Walking is the best medicine”

– Hippocrates

The “Father of Medicine” realized the benefits of walking way back around 400 BCE. Throughout the centuries, science and research proved Hippocrates’ theory about the health benefits of daily ambulation.

Today, doctors and other health professionals still recommend taking a frequent stroll, even if you already engage in other forms of exercise.

Taking a daily walk is perhaps the best thing you can do for your health. Here are eight ways walking improves your health.

8 Ways Walking Improves Your Health

  1. Improves circulation

    Walking stimulates blood circulation, which improves the flow of oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to your muscles and organs.

  2. Boost heart health

    Your heart is a muscle. Like all muscles, the more you exercise your heart muscle, the stronger it gets. Walking increases your pulse to give your heart a workout.

  3. Lower your risk for medical problems and diseases

    Walking can help lower your risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes as much as running, according to the American Heart Association.

  4. Strengthen your bones and muscles

    Exercise strengthens bones and muscles. Walking strengthens the muscles in your legs, hips, and upper body. The National Institutes of Health says that weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, is the best type of exercise for strengthening your bones.

  5. Gives you energy

    A brisk walk activates various body systems to raise your pulse, increase perspiration, trigger the flow of “happy” hormones, and stimulate alertness.

  6. Perk up your mood

    Stimulating your circulation and hormone secretion improves your mood. Put a little kick in your step and smile on your face all day by taking a brisk walk in the morning.

  7. Improves your balance and coordination

    Walking improves your balance and coordination by building lower body strength. Improved balance and coordination can help reduce your risk of falling; stronger bones reduce your risk of broken bones in case you do fall.

  8. Nearly everyone can do it

    Walking is a free, easy, and convenient way to improve your health – you need nothing more than a comfortable pair of shoes. You can walk around the block, stroll through the mall, or get on a treadmill. Walking is appropriate for most people, even those with medical problems.

For more information on the health benefits of walking, talk with a medical professional. Make an appointment today with Virtual Imaging, Inc. at 770-730-0119.

7 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Your Heart Health

If you are like most people, you want to keep your heart as healthy as possible. You may know that heart disease is common, according to the American Heart Association, which says that more than 85 million Americans are living with some form of cardiovascular disease or after-effects of stroke.

Your doctor can be one of your best allies when it comes to keeping your heart healthy. You may not be getting all the help you need from your doctor, though, simply because you do not ask the right questions while you are at the office. Here are seven heart health questions to ask at your next doctor visit.

7 Heart Health Questions to Ask at Your Next Doctor Visit

  1. How high is my cholesterol?

    High cholesterol can lead to the accumulation of fat and plaque in your blood vessels, which increases your risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular problems. There are several types of cholesterol, including “bad” LDL, “good” HDL, and triglycerides. Ask your doctor if your cholesterol levels are within normal limits.

  2. What is my BMI?

    You may know that your body mass index (BMI) has a lot to do with your heart health. BMI is a measurement of body fat based on your height and weight. A high BMI means you may be overweight or obese, and carrying excess weight increases your risk for heart problems. If you are like many people, though, you may not know how to calculate your BMI.

  3. Am I at high risk for heart disease?

    Some people are at higher risk of heart disease than others. Certain risk factors increase the chances that you will develop cardiovascular disease. The key risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Nearly half of all Americans have at least one of those risk factors. Other risk factors include being overweight or obese, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, and excessive alcohol use.

  4. Should I see a nutritionist or registered dietitian to learn more about healthy eating?

    Nutrition plays an important role in heart health. If you are like many people, you want to eat healthier but you may not be sure what foods you should eat.

  5. What can I do to lessen my risk of heart disease, a heart attack, or a stroke?

    Your doctor can help you review your risk of heart disease and suggest ways to reduce that risk.

  6. Should I undergo heart screening?

    A heart scan can detect the development of plaque in the arteries and, if plaque is present, determine how much plaque has built up.

  7. How often should I undergo screening?

    People at high risk of heart disease because of a personal history of heart disease, a family history of cardiovascular disease, or high risk factors for heart disease should undergo screening more often than those who are at average risk.

Print out your list of questions and take the list with you when you visit your doctor. Be sure to bring a pen so you can write down the answers as needed. Schedule an appointment with Virtual Imaging, Inc. today and take steps towards protecting your heart.

Signs of Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in the colon, also known as the large intestine. Doctors diagnose about 97,220 cases of colon cancer each year.

Colorectal cancer of the colon is common – excluding skin cancer, colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the United States.

Many people with colon cancer do not realize it at first – many of the signs and symptoms of colon cancer may be the result of other conditions, such as hemorrhoids, infections, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease. Signs of colon cancer are especially hard to recognize in the early stages of the disease. Early detection of colon cancer is important, though, in that early treatment improves outcomes.

Signs of Colon Cancer

The signs of colon cancer include:

  • A change in your bowel habits, such as constipation, diarrhea, or narrow stools, which persists for more than a few days.
  • Feeling like you need to have a bowel movement, but moving your bowels does not relieve the sensation.
  • Rectal bleeding.
  • Dark stools or obvious blood in your stool.
  • Belly pain or cramping.
  • Weakness, fatigue.
  • Unintended weight loss.

Most people who experience these signs and symptoms do not have colon cancer. It is important that people who do experience these signs and symptoms undergo colon cancer testing, as symptoms often appear only after cancer has progressed to a later stage of the disease.

Colon Cancer and Screening

Doctors often describe colon cancer and rectal cancer as one condition – colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer found through routine screening is usually easier to treat than cancer found in people with symptoms. Screening can even prevent some colorectal cancers by giving doctors an opportunity to find and remove precancerous growths, known as polyps, during the screening procedure.

The American Cancer Society recommends regular colorectal screenings for men and women starting at age 50. People with a family history of colon cancer should talk with their doctors about undergoing testing at a younger age.

When diagnosed before it has spread, the five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer is 90 percent. That means nine out of ten people live for more than five years after treatment. Survival rates are lower once  the cancer has spread outside of the colon.

For more information about colon cancer and screening, talk with your doctor or schedule an appointment with us today. 

Benefits of Chia Seeds

You might remember chia seeds from a popular toy; these are the same seeds you smeared on Homer Simpson’s head to grow an afro. You may not realize that chia seeds are more than fun – they are actually good for you. Despite their small size, there are a number of health benefits packed into chia seeds.

4 Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids

    Chia seeds provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential nutrients your body cannot make for itself. Omega-3 fatty acids help boost levels of HDL cholesterol, which is the “good” cholesterol that protects you against stroke and heart attack.

  2. High in fiber

    One ounce of chia seeds, which is about two tablespoons, provides 10 grams of fiber. Research shows that consuming 14 grams of fiber per every 1,000 calories can protect against coronary artery disease, a type of heart disease. A high-fiber diet also provides a number of other health benefits, including making bowel movements more regular, lowering cholesterol levels, controlling blood sugar, and even aiding in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. The fiber in chia seeds helps you feel satisfied after even a small meal, which helps you lose weight.

  3. Antioxidant powerhouses

    Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants, which counteract the damage that free radicals can have on body cells. Free radicals can interact with other molecules and, when they do, the interaction causes a type of damage known as oxidative stress. A growing body of research shows that oxidative stress from free radicals is associated with a number of illnesses, including a type of heart disease known as atherosclerosis, as well as cancer, joint problems, diabetes, and certain types of eye diseases. Free radicals can even cause certain types of lung problems, such as asthma.

    The antioxidants in chia seeds fight free radicals and reduce the risk for health issues associated with oxidative stress.

  4. Chia seeds are high in nutrients

    A tablespoon of chia seeds provides 18 percent of the calcium you need for strong teeth and bones. It also provides 27 percent of your daily phosphorus needs, 30 percent of the recommended daily allowance of manganese, and smaller amounts of potassium and copper. Chia seeds are low in cholesterol and sodium, so they are a sensible part of a heart-healthy diet.

Perhaps the best thing about chia seeds is that they are easy to eat – just sprinkle chia seeds on your oatmeal, mix them into muffins, or bake them into bread or other recipes. In addition to eating chia seeds to improve your health, contact Virtual Imaging, Inc. today and schedule a scan for cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and colon cancer. 

5 Steps Toward a Healthier Heart

Approximately 610,000 people in the United States die from heart disease each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means heart disease is responsible for about one in four deaths in the nation and is the leading cause of death.

Certain risk factors increase the likelihood that you will develop heart disease. Some of these risk factors are out of your control. Having a family history of heart disease increases your risk for cardiovascular problems, for example. Fortunately, many of the risk factors for heart disease are modifiable, which means you can change them. Some of these risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, having diabetes, and being overweight.

You can change these risk factors through lifestyle choices and improve the health of your heart. These lifestyle changes can also improve your overall health and well-being.

5 Lifestyle Changes You Can Make for a Healthier Heart

  1. Aim for a healthy weight

    Obesity puts you at increased risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and resistance to insulin. The higher your body mass index (BMI), the higher your risk of heart disease. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides a table to help you determine your BMI.

  2. Eat well

    Eating a healthy diet is one of the best steps you can take toward having a healthy heart. The types and amounts of food you eat can influence other modifiable risk factors for heart disease. Choose a nutrient-rich, low-calorie diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and avoids sweets and red meats.

  3. Be physically active every day

    Get up and move every day. Engaging in three to four 40-minute exercise sessions per week can help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and help you maintain a healthy weight.

  4. Quit smoking

    Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, which can lead to the buildup of a fatty plaque and narrow the arteries. This can restrict the amount of blood flowing through the arteries, which can lead to heart attack, chest pain known as angina, and stroke.

  5. Get checked out

    Undergo regular doctor appointments and cardiovascular screening. Going to the doctor regularly gives your health care provider an opportunity to measure your blood pressure and cholesterol and to detect and treat heart disease early, before it becomes a big problem.

You can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease by eating well, exercising, and improving a few daily habits. For more information about steps you can take for a healthy heart, speak with a healthcare professional and contact Virtual Imaging, Inc. today.