How Allergies Affect Your Lungs

Spring is in the air – and so are many of the allergens that cause the misery of seasonal allergies. Symptoms of seasonal allergies can cause itching and watering in your eyes, congestion and runniness in your nose, and itching in your throat. Allergies can affect your lungs to cause wheezing, coughing, and other uncomfortable signs and symptoms of seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies can also trigger asthma, allergic bronchitis, and other lung problems.

Pollen is one of the most common triggers of allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Plants release pollen each spring, summer, and early fall. This pollen fertilizes plants of the same species of trees, grasses, and weeds. Exposure to these pollens and other allergens causes allergic reactions that can affect your lungs.

How Allergies Affect Your Lungs

Allergies can cause inflammation in your lungs. This inflammation can result in coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and other symptoms.

The symptoms of allergies, such as nasal congestion and watery eyes, come from inflammation of your body tissues. Allergies can also cause inflammation in your lungs. This inflammation is the result of your body’s misguided attempt to protect itself from the allergens.

Allergies can cause lung problems. Exposure to allergens can cause allergy-induced asthma, a condition in which the airways swell and produce extra mucus.

Individuals with allergies are at higher risk of developing respiratory infections, such as bronchitis. Exposure to seasonal allergies can compromise the immune system and increase mucus production, which can promote the development of bronchitis and other respiratory infections.

People can develop hypersensitivity to dust, tiny organisms, and chemicals. This hypersensitivity can cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a type of allergic reaction that causes inflammation of the lung’s air sacs.

How to Protect Your Lungs from Seasonal Allergies

Check the outdoor air quality levels and pollution forecasts before you venture outside. If you do go outside, scope out the environment for obvious allergy triggers.

Do gardening and lawn maintenance in the early morning or in the evening, while pollen counts are at their lowest.

Stay away from citronella candles, bug sprays, strong-smelling candles, and other seasonal products that can irritate your lungs. Opt for mosquito repellants in lotion form rather than in sprays.

Use medications as prescribed and keep your allergy medications handy.

Consult with a medical professional. Doctors can diagnose seasonal allergies, prescribe medications, and recommend imaging tests to evaluate the health of your lungs. For more information, make an appointment today with Virtual Imaging, Inc. at 770-730-0119.

Benefits of Virtual Examinations

In the earliest days of medicine, doctors would use their hands and rudimentary tools to perform physical examinations of the patients they treated. A doctor might press on a patient’s belly to diagnose appendicitis before performing surgery, for example, or use an x-ray to detect a heart problem or cancer. A patient might undergo colonoscopy as a screening for colon cancer. In some cases, doctors would have to perform exploratory surgery to determine the cause of a patient’s illness.

Doctors still use many of the traditional physical examinations to diagnose patients, but many clinicians are utilizing virtual examinations, also known as body scans. Virtual examinations provide a number of benefits, both for the patients and for their doctors.

Benefits of Virtual Examinations Through Medical Imaging

Virtual examinations through medical imaging help doctors detect, diagnose, and treat illnesses early when many illnesses are at their most treatable stages. In this way, virtual examinations save lives and improve the quality of those lives.

Since medical imaging catches illnesses early, virtual examinations can reduce healthcare costs. Treating plaque in the arteries with lifestyle changes and medicine is less expensive than treating heart attacks, for example. Cardiac computed tomography (CT) for Calcium Scoring creates images of the patient’s coronary arteries to help doctors determine if the patient has atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to heart attacks.

The latest generation of diagnostic CT technology, such as the EBCT C300 scanner, performs high-speed, high-volume imaging using very low radiation to create images of the heart, vessels, and all organs in the torso. Virtual examinations allow clinicians to see heart and vascular disease, colon cancers, lung cancer, other cancers, and abnormalities that are preventable and curable when detected early.

Virtual examinations can improve the overall quality of healthcare. Medical imaging gives doctors and other health professionals the tools they need to make accurate diagnoses. Virtual examinations also provide a way for doctors to evaluate patients’ responses to treatment.

One major advantage is the shareable nature of digital imaging — doctors can share imaging results with specialists and other members of the patient’s healthcare team. Virtual examinations and full-body scans help every member of the team stay up-to-date on a patient’s condition.

Patients prefer virtual examinations because they are non-invasive, painless, and most modern medical imaging tests require very little preparation. Medical imaging helps patients avoid or limit invasive inpatient procedures and return to their normal lives more quickly than ever before. Virtual examinations have all but eliminated the need for exploratory surgery. Patients also appreciate the detailed information virtual examinations provide.

Today’s medical imaging has several advantages over older technologies. For more information about the benefits of virtual examinations, talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional. Make an appointment today with Virtual Imaging, Inc. Imaging Center at 770-730-0119.

How to Improve Your Circulation

If you are an adult and were to stretch all your blood vessels end to end in a straight line, they would measure nearly 100,000 miles long. Every day, the vast network of arteries, veins, and capillaries circulate about 1.2 to 1.5 gallons of blood throughout the body. Arteries deliver oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to body tissues and cells, while veins carry away toxins and waste products.

A healthy circulatory system delivers all the oxygen and nutrients cells and tissues need to function, and removes toxic byproducts of cell function. An unhealthy circulatory system, by comparison, does a poor job of delivering nutrients and carrying away byproducts. Poor circulation leaves body cells and tissues at risk of oxygen deprivation and exposure to harmful toxins.

Symptoms of poor circulation include:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Throbbing or stinging pain in your hands or feet
  • Pain
  • Muscle cramps

Conditions that cause poor circulation can cause additional symptoms. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) may cause erectile dysfunction, for example. Blood clots can block the flow of blood partially or entirely; a blood clot that breaks free may result in a stroke. Varicose veins can cause the appearance of twisted, enlarged veins in your lower legs.

Steps for Improving Circulation

Exercise More

Engaging in physical activity is one of the best ways to improve your circulation. Exercise makes your heart work harder, which causes your blood to move faster through your blood vessels. Exercise also helps keep your blood vessels flexible, so that they can stretch as needed to accommodate the increased blood flow.

Lose Weight

Your arteries carry blood downward from your heart to your feet. Your veins must fight gravity to bring blood back upwards towards the heart. Excess weight makes it even harder for your veins to move your blood upwards out of your lower legs. A 2009 study showed that losing weight helped improve circulation in overweight women.

Practice Yoga

A 2014 scientific review of evidence showed that practicing yoga benefited the cardiovascular system. Certain yoga positions, such as downward-facing dog, are especially effective at improving circulation. The downward-facing dog position puts your hips and heart above your head, which allows blood to circulate up into your head more easily.

Eat Oily Fish

Oily fish, such as, mackerel and salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids known to be beneficial for the heart and blood vessels.

Participate in Screening

Early detection of circulatory problems can improve treatment outcomes. Your doctor can order blood tests, ultrasounds, and computed tomography (CT) scans to assess the health of your circulatory system. For more information on ways to improve your circulation, consult with your doctor or other healthcare professional. Make an appointment today with Virtual Imaging, Inc. Imaging Center at 770-730-0119.

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

Certain factors increase your risk for lung cancer. Some of these risk factors are changeable, which means you can take action to reduce your risk for developing lung cancer. Other risk factors cannot be changed.

Simply having a risk factor does not mean you will develop lung cancer. Having several risk factors, however, can increase the odds that you will develop the condition.

Lung Cancer Risk Factors

Exposure to Tobacco Smoke

The American Cancer Society says that tobacco smoking is the number one risk factor for the development of lung cancer and that about 80 percent of lung cancer cases are associated with tobacco smoke. The risk for lung cancer is many times higher in smokers than in non-smokers. The longer you smoke, the higher your risk. Smoking cigars or pipes puts you at nearly as much risk for lung cancer as smoking cigarettes.

Secondhand smoke can also increase the risk for lung cancer. Approximately 7,000 deaths from lung cancer are associated with secondhand smoke each year.

Exposure to Radon

Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer; it is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally as the result of the breakdown of uranium in the soil and water.

There are very low levels of radon outside, but the radioactive gas can become concentrated indoors. Radon levels can be especially high in the basement. Breathing radon exposes your lungs to small amounts of radiation in radon and this increases your risk for lung cancer.

Exposure to Asbestos

People who work in mines, textile plants, mills, and other workplaces that use insulation are at increased risk for lung cancer. Those who work in shipyards also have a higher risk for the disease. The risk for lung cancer is even greater in smokers who work in these places.

Exposure to asbestos increases the risk of a particular type of lung cancer, known as mesothelioma, which starts in the pleural lining of the lungs.

Workplace Exposure to Other Cancer-Causing Agents

Working around other cancer-causing agents, known as carcinogens, can increase the risk of lung cancer. These workplace carcinogens can include uranium or other radioactive ores, and diesel exhaust. Other carcinogens include:

  • Arsenic
  • Beryllium
  • Cadmium
  • Chloromethyl ethers
  • Chromium compounds
  • Coal products
  • Mustard gas
  • Nickel compounds
  • Silica
  • Vinyl chloride

Early detection of lung cancer is essential for a good outcome. Screening for lung cancer is an important step in detecting lung cancer early, especially for people who are at high risk for developing the disease. For more information on the risk factors for lung cancer, consult with a doctor or knowledgeable medical professional. Make an appointment today with Virtual Imaging, Inc. Imaging Center at 770-730-0119.

Your Colon and Why It’s Important

Your colon is the final part of your gastrointestinal tract, which is part of your digestive system.

Your colon is about five feet long and about 2.5 inches in diameter. Your small intestine is actually longer than your large intestine but your large intestine is thicker in diameter, which is why they refer to your colon as the large intestine.

Your large intestine wraps around the border of your abdominal cavity. Your colon begins on the right side of your abdomen, where it connects to your small intestine. The hollow tube of your colon moves upward on the right side of your stomach, a segment of the intestine known as the ascending colon. The transverse colon then takes a 90-degree turn to move from the right side of your upper abdomen across to the left side, where it takes another 90-degree turn. Your descending colon then runs down along the left side of your abdomen. The large intestine bends slightly at the end of the descending colon, so that the end of the colon terminates at your anus.

Your colon performs three very important jobs:

  1. Converting food into stool
  2. Absorbing essential vitamins from bacteria living in the gut
  3. Reclaiming water from stool

A semi-liquid mixture of digested food, known as chyme, passes from the small intestine into the large intestine. Powerful muscles move the chyme through the colon in a motion known as peristalsis. It takes about 36 hours for chyme to move through your colon.

The chyme mixes with beneficial bacteria living in the gut. As the chyme moves through the colon, bacterial fermentation turns the chyme into stool and releases vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, K, and biotin that the body uses for various functions.

Your colon also turns chyme into stool by absorbing excess fluid and salt. Your body uses this reclaimed fluid and salt for other metabolic processes. The remaining waste moves through to the final segment of the colon, known as the sigmoid colon, which stores the stool for elimination. Once or twice a day, the stool moves from the sigmoid colon to the rectum and then to the outside world during a bowel movement.

For more information on your colon and its importance to your good health, talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional. Make an appointment today with Virtual Imaging, Inc. Imaging Center at 770-730-0119.

Make Your Heart Merry with These Holiday Treats

During the holidays, rich decadent foods seem to tempt you at every turn. Christmas cookies call to you from the plate, a giant meal promises all your favorite fixings, and the all-you-can-eat buffets provide an endless selection of unhealthy, yet delightful foods. While they are gooey, chewy and delicious, these tasty treats are usually full of fat, salt, and sugar that are terrible for your cardiac health.

Holiday buffets often feature a longline of processed meats, which contain salt and preservatives that can be bad for your heart. Potatoes, cakes, breads, and other treats contain highly refined and processed grains and carbohydrates that can cause spikes in blood sugar. Soft drinks and other sugar beverages often round out the holiday meal, and these treats can be bad for your heart, too.

Make your heart merry by replacing traditional treats with these heart-healthy holiday delights.

Heart-Healthy Holiday Treats

Black bean chocolate cake – replacing the flour in your chocolate cake with black beans cuts calories and adds protein to your treat. The beans will not change the flavor of your cake, but they will add a darker, richer color.

Sweet potato brownies – a drop of natural sweetness from sweet potatoes and honey adds decadence and flavor to unsweetened cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate.

Cream cheese and berry coffee cake – with its sweet, fruity swirl of jam, there is no need for frosting or streusel.  This low-sodium treat only has 150 calories per serving, so you can indulge while keeping your heart healthy.

Relish tray – offer fresh vegetables, such as carrots, celery, snap peas, cauliflower, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes at your next holiday gathering. Try the creamy cucumber-dill dip recipe from the American Heart Association.

Bake a crustless pumpkin pie and enjoy all the flavor of this traditional treat with fewer calories. Because it is crustless, it is also gluten-free.

Peanut-apple crunch balls – get the kids involved in making a new holiday tradition with peanut-apple crunch balls. Lightly wetting your hands makes it easier to shape the peanut, apple and cereal mixture into little balls.

Heart-healthy green bean casserole – traditional green bean casseroles are usually drowning in a heavy cream sauce, cheese and buttered breadcrumbs that can ruin your heart-healthy diet. Try a lighter version instead, one that replaces heavy cream sauce with heart-friendly olive oil, whole wheat bread crumbs and low-fat milk.

For more information about heart-healthy holiday treats, consult with your healthcare professional. Reduce your risk for underlying diseases, such as heart problems or lung problems, through regular health scans. Make an appointment today with Virtual Imaging, Inc. Imaging Center at 770-730-0119.

Enjoy Better Heart Health in the New Year with these 5 Easy Resolutions

Put your heart into your New Year’s resolutions this year — literally! Make this the year that you improve your cardiovascular health and increase your chances for a long and healthy life.

5 Resolutions for a Healthier Heart in the New Year

  1. Drink more water

    Water helps you stay hydrated, and staying hydrated makes it easier for your heart to pump blood through blood vessels, according to the American Heart Association. Your heart does not have to work as hard when you are hydrated.

  2. Eat less processed food

    Processed food contains a significant amount of salt, calories, and sugar that are bad for heart health. Instead, opt for whole, fresh foods whenever possible. Vegetables and whole grains contain dietary fiber, which fills you up so you feel more satisfied after a meal. Eating a bowl of oatmeal instead of a breakfast burrito or a handful of walnuts instead of a candy bar can lower your cholesterol and improve your heart health.

  3. Address health problems

    Certain health issues, such as high blood pressure and being overweight or obese, can negatively affect your heart health. Resolve to take your blood pressure medication each day and lose weight.

  4. Exercise more

    To improve your overall heart health, the American Heart Association suggests that you aim for at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly or 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. You can also combine moderate and vigorous activity, or divide your exercise time into two or three segments every day.

    Even if you cannot meet the time goals set by the American Heart Association, any exercise is better than none at all. Find a couple of heart-healthy activities you really enjoy, such as swimming or cycling, so that you will stay interested. Work out at the same time every day to cultivate your resolution into a daily habit.

  5. Make an appointment for a heart scan

    Virtual imaging with the EBT C300 scanner allows for precise imaging and mapping of your beating heart without blurring and without the need for medication. In other words, this type of heart scan is a fast, easy way to create a clear image of your heart that helps your doctor assess your risk for cardiac disease. Make an appointment with Virtual Imaging, Inc. Imaging Center at 770-730-0119.

A new year means it is time for a new you. Make heart health your number one resolution on this New Year’s Day.

Importance of Yearly Check-Ups

Yearly checkups can help your doctor detect and treat minor problems before they become major illnesses. Many health problems are easier to treat in their early stages, so yearly checkups can help you find problems when your chances for treatment and cure are better.

The health services, screenings, and treatments you receive during your annual exam can improve your chances for a longer, healthier life.

Your doctor may recommend various diagnostic tests, based on your age, gender, personal health history, family health history, and other specific risk factors. Yearly screenings can help your doctor detect some of the most common causes of illnesses and death in the United States, including cardiovascular disease, lung disease, and colon cancer. Imaging helps doctors detect these conditions in their earliest stages when treatment is usually most effective.

Imaging as Part of Your Yearly Check-up

Cardiovascular disease, also known as heart disease, is the number one cause of death in the U.S. and is a major cause of disability in the nation. The most common cause of cardiovascular disease is the accumulation of plaque that narrows or blocks the coronary arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. Doctors refer to this as coronary artery disease; it is the major reason people have heart attacks. Plaque can accumulate slowly in the coronary arteries, so many patients do not realize they have a problem.

Many times, people with heart disease do not experience symptoms until the condition has progressed to a late stage, which can make diagnosis difficult. Scanning helps doctors detect plaque in the coronary arteries.

The Electron Beam Computed Tomography (EBCT) heart scan is one of the best predictor of a cardiovascular event. EBCT is a non-invasive, high-speed computed tomography (CT) scan that can detect plaque in the coronary arteries before symptoms develop. EBCT can also detect signs of lung cancer, colon cancers, and other cancers or abnormalities.

Lung disease is another serious health problem in the U.S. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women in the country. EBCT scanning can detect tumors as small as 5 millimeters in size, which is about 0.19 inches.

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the nation. These cancers usually start as polyps in the large intestine; imaging can detect these polyps. Colorectal cancer does not typically cause symptoms, so yearly checkups can help.

For more information on the importance of yearly checkups, make an appointment with your doctor. Make an appointment today with Virtual Imaging, Inc. Imaging Center at 770-730-0119.

How to Keep Your Body Warm and Healthy This Winter

Cold weather can cause health problems. A drop in temperature increases your blood pressure, which places an extra burden on your heart. Your body also has to work harder to stay warm during cold weather, and this too causes your heart to work harder. Sharp increases in blood pressure combined with the extra burden on your heart increases your risk for heart attack. This is especially true if you have an underlying heart condition or are shoveling snow.

Warm blood circulates through blood vessels to the rest of your body. When exposed to extremely cold temperatures, though, your body starts to shut down circulation to your extremities so that it can focus on delivering warm blood to your vital organs at the center of your body. The loss of blood in your fingers and toes allows your skin there to get very cold; the icy temperatures then damage tissue cells to cause frostnip and frostbite.

The cold temperatures of winter can also be hard on your lungs. Cold air is usually dry air, and dry air can play havoc on people with lung problems. Dry air irritates their airways, and this can cause wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.

How to Stay Warm and Healthy During Winter

Eat well. Have you ever noticed that you prefer cool fruits, light salads, and smaller portions during the heat of summer, but crave hot and hearty stews, soups, and casseroles during cold weather? That is your body trying to tell you that you need to eat a few more calories to stay warm. Your body works like a furnace, burning fuel in the form of calories to stay warm.

Dress in layers. Start with a close-fitting base layer to wick away sweat, add insulating mid layers, and finish with a looser-fitting wind- or waterproof outer layer. Add a hat and scarf that covers your face and mouth to keep your skin warm and to warm the air as you inhale, and mittens to protect your fingers from frostbite. Wear water-resistant boots to maintain body heat.

Keep an eye on the air temperature. As you age, your body becomes less sensitive to temperature so you may not realize that you need to get warm until the cold has already caused harm.

Bring your inhaler or other quick-relief medications with you when you go out into cold air.

For more information on keeping your body warm, talk to your doctor. Reduce your risk for underlying diseases, such as heart problems or lung problems, through regular health scans. Make an appointment today with Virtual Imaging, Inc. Imaging Center at 770-730-0119.

How Eating Superfoods Helps Your Heart and Colon Health

Superfoods may sound like heroes in capes, but they’re actually nutrient-dense foods that can be used to make any meal more nutritious. Many of these foods contain vitamins and micronutrients that can contribute to the health of your heart and colon.

Superfoods for Your Heart and Colon Health


Oatmeal is an amazing food for your heart and colon. This food is packed with soluble fiber, and that is healthy for your colon. It also acts as a sponge to cholesterol, soaking it up and preventing it from being absorbed by your bloodstream. Just avoid adding too much sugar, and you’ve got a versatile superfood that’s perfect for breakfast.

Dark Chocolate

Who knew that something so delicious could be so good for you? Dark chocolate that contains 60 to 70 percent cacao or more has been shown to reduce the risk of strokes and non-fatal heart attacks. It’s packed with antioxidants, but it also contains the vital nutrients polyphenols and flavonoids. These substances can help to lower blood pressure and inflammation as well as blood clotting.


Peanuts and tree nuts such as macadamia nuts, walnuts, and almonds have fiber that’s excellent for heart health. They can also help lower your bad cholesterol level with their vitamin E. Some tree nuts also have omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient that’s been shown to be heart healthy. The fats in nuts may worry some people, but the fats they contain are excellent for the heart, and studies have shown that people who eat nuts are slimmer than those who avoid them.


Ginger is a common spice that adds a little zing to many meals. It has also been shown in one study to reduce the risk of colon cancer. It’s often used to treat colds, but it’s gaining fame for its power to reduce the risk of tumors in the colon. So, spice up those dishes!


Being one of the most powerful superfoods, blueberries are good for both your heart and your colon. Blueberries contain a nutrient called pterostilbene, and it has been shown to prevent colon cancer. They have also been shown to lower the risk of heart attacks. These berries contain a wealth of antioxidants, and they can dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Strawberries are also heart-healthy food, so a dessert of colorful berries is just what the doctor ordered.

Be sure to check with your doctor about your heart and colon health. Schedule an appointment with a Virtual Imaging specialist to gain more insight on how you can improve your health. Reach us today at 770-730-0119.