Exercise and Physical Health

Facts and Information about Heart Disease

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What is Heart Disease? 

Did you know that heart disease is not just one disease, heart disease refers to numerous conditions that affect the heart? And believe it or not, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Some of the conditions that fall under the umbrella of heart disease are coronary heart disease, arrhythmia, myocardial infarction and even congenital heart defects. Additionally, it should be noted that cardiovascular disease is another name for heart disease. 

Common Symptoms

One might be surprised to learn that the symptoms for heart disease differ between women and men. Often women with have chest pain, however it can likely be accompanied by fatigue, nausea and shortness of breath, whereas men commonly have chest discomfort. 
In general, common symptoms include, but are not limited to: 

• Chest discomfort, such as pressure, pain and tightness. 
• Pain in various part of the upper body, such as in the upper back or abdomen, as well as in the neck, jaw or throat. 
• Shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing 
• Coldness, numbness, weakness and/or pain in the extremities. 
• Irregularly heartbeat. It could be a racing heart, or it could be slowed. 
• Paleness of the skin with a gray or blue hue. 
• Swelling, especially in the legs. 
Please note, this is not an exhaustive list. Symptoms depend of the type of heart disease one has and what it is caused by. 


The most common cause of heart disease is something called atherosclerosis. If you are not a doctor, that term simply describes the build up of plaque in one’s arteries. As this build up occurs, it thickens and stiffens, and will eventually inhibit the flow of blood through the arteries, which means tissues and organs go without. Thankfully, this condition is easily remedied as poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking contribute to it. However, some types of heart disease come from heart arrhythmia that one is born with, but this arrhythmia can also be caused by high blood pressure, drug abuse, stress and even excessive caffeine use. Interestingly, heart disease can even be caused by infections from bacteria, viruses or parasites in the body that can eventually reach the heart muscle. 

Risk Factors

Unfortunately, it is common to not be diagnosed with heart disease until one has a stroke or heart attack. Fret not though, preventative measures can be taken to avoid or treat numerous forms of heart disease. Knowing the risk facts and prevention methods for heart disease can help one understand how to protect themselves and keep themselves healthy. 
Risk factors include, but are not limited to: 
• Age – Older people are more likely to have damaged arteries or weakened heart muscles. 
• Gender – Men are typically at a greater risk. 
• Smoking – Heart attacks are common among smokers due to nicotine constricting blood vessels and carbon monoxide causing the smoker to become more susceptible to atherosclerosis. 
• Poor diet – This is a huge contribution factor. Overweight individuals are at a greater risk of heart disease. Diets that are high in fat, salt and sugar can increase one’s risk of developing the condition. 
• High blood pressure – This may be caused by poor lifestyle choices or genetics. 
• High cholesterol – This may cause more plaques to form and increase the risk of atherosclerosis. 
• Diabetes – This condition also has risk factors that parallel heart disease, such as high blood pressure and being overweight. 
While you cannot treat congenital heart defects, simple lifestyle changes can improve one’s health and lower their risk. Practice good hygiene to prevent viral or bacterial infections. One should take care of their body by quitting smoking, implementing a healthy diet and exercise regiment, as well as maintaining stress levels. Finally, other health conditions should be managed that can contribute to the risk of developing heart disease. Some examples include diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. 
Below are some terms one should familiarize themselves with to help understand heart disease more fully. 
• Cardiovascular disease – The medical term for heart disease. It can be used interchangeably. 
• Angina – Chest pain 
• Congenital – Present from birth 
• Arrhythmia – Irregular heartbeat 
• Heart Attack – Death of the heart muscle caused by lack of blood flow. 
• Stroke – Sudden death of some brain cells cause be loss of oxygen when blood flow to the brain becomes impaired or when an artery to the brain rupture. 

Facts and Information about Back Pain

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Types and Symptoms

Back pain presents in many forms, regardless of the root cause. Pain can affect the upper or lower back area, as well as the muscles or bone along the vertebrae. In some situations, this pain interferes with a person’s ability to function normally. Pain may be dull, sharp, aching, or pulsating. How a person experiences this pain depends on the condition that is causing it. Back pain in and of itself is not a diagnosis.  


For some, the cause of back pain proves to be improper posture and lifting objects incorrectly. Bending at the waist, rather than from the knee, can put stress on the muscles in the lower back area. It is usually easily treated with rest and exerting correct lifting techniques moving forward. When pain is present in the upper back and shoulder area, the cause may also be related to posture. When these aren’t known causes, pain in either portion of the back may be related to a more serious issue, including pinched nerves, slipped or herniated vertebral discs, injury, osteoarthritis, or an infection within the spine. It is important to find the root cause of back pain in order to provide relief.

People with the highest risk of pain due to injury include those employed in jobs that require demanding physical labor and lifting of heavy objects on a regular basis. Those with the highest risk of pain due to osteoarthritis include older people and those with a known diagnosis. Pinched nerve pain can be the result of sleeping at an awkward angle, as can simple muscle pain in the area around the neck and shoulders. More intense back pain may need to be evaluated to look for causes such as problems with the discs along the spine. Slipped and herniated discs are often caused by age, injury, or misuse, such as suddenly turning or twisting to get to something. Most conditions can be treated with rest, medication, or physical therapy. In certain extreme situations, a doctor may recommend a surgical solution.  
Disc: A disc is a soft shock absorbing pad located between each spinal vertebra. 
Herniated disc: A herniated disc is one that has been pushed out of place and is compressed by the vertebra above and below it.  
Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the degeneration of the cartilage and bone around the joints of the body. It is common in middle-age and beyond.  
Pinched Nerve: A pinched nerve occurs due to excess pressure being placed onto the nerve by bones, tendons, cartilage, and other tissues.  
Vertebra: A vertebra is one of the series of small bones that together make up the spinal column.  
Vertebrae: Vertebrae is the plural of a vertebra and it is the name for all 33 of the small vertebrae. 

Facts and Information about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a treatable respiratory disease that affects the lungs. It is characterized by persistent shortness of breath and fatigue. Early stages of COPD exhibit shortness of breath in patients when they exercise. As it progresses, it becomes hard to breathe out or even breathe in. 

Types of COPD 

There are two types of COPD; obstructive bronchiolitis and emphysema. A patient can have either of these two conditions or in some isolated cases, experience both them. 

Obstructive Bronchiolitis 

This condition is defined by chronic inflammation and swelling of airways in the lungs, making them abnormally small. Inflammation in this tubular organ results in restricted breathing as it interferes with airflow in and out of the lungs. 


The lungs comprise millions of alveoli. To facilitate breathing, these alveoli expand and contract enabled by their elastic nature. In Emphysema, this elastic feature in the alveoli is damaged thus requiring extra effort for them to expand and contract. 

These two conditions both restrict the movement of air in and out of the lungs, demanding a lot of effort just to nourish the body with enough oxygen. 


– Common symptoms of COPD include: 
• Shortness of breath while involved in activities 
• Fatigue 
• Coughing 
• Wheezing 
• Unending mucus 

Causes and Risk Factors 

The major cause of COPD is tobacco smoke, and its prevalence relates directly to the widespread culture of tobacco smoking. Other factors that will put you at risk of getting COPD or making it worse include: 
• Prolonged exposure to indoor pollutants such as biomass fuels used as energy in poorly ventilated homes. 
• Industrial exposure to chemical fumes, organic and inorganic dust. 
• Outdoor air pollutants are a factor that most people assume, but inhaled particles have a small effect. 
• The genetic component passed down from parents. If your parents had COPD, then you are at high risk of getting it. 
• Respiratory problems or low birth weight during childhood that interfere with lung development. 
• An underlying condition such as asthma or chronic bronchitis. 
COPD is treatable with a combination of pulmonary rehabilitation, anti-inflammatory drugs, bronchodilators, and ICS. These drugs reduce symptoms, stabilize the functions of the lung, and improve quality of life. However, the damage to the lungs is irreversible. COPD is chronic, therefore, it is a lifelong condition that a patient has to learn to manage it and continue to lead a fulfilling life. 
Pulmonary – Relating to lungs 
Bronchiolitis – inflammation in the lungs 
ICS – Inhaled Corticosteroids 
Alveolus (singular)- air sac organ in the lungs 

Facts and Information about Multiple Sclerosis

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Multiple Sclerosis is an immune-mediated chronic disease affecting the central nervous system, especially the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord. It is characterized by demyelination, inflammation, and axonal damage of the cells in the central nervous system.  


The most common type of multiple sclerosis is relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), affecting approximately 85% of people with multiple sclerosis. People with RRMS have relapses known as the periods when the symptoms appear. They usually last for a few days followed by the period of remission.  
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis might vary from person to person and change or fluctuate over time. Here are the symptoms of the disease observed in most patients:  

– Fatigue. This symptom occurs in about 80% of patients and interferes with the ability to function at work and home. In most cases, it is one of the first and most prominent signs of multiple sclerosis.  
– Walking difficulties. It becomes hard for a person to walk and to keep the balance. He starts experiencing tightness in muscles, spasticity (muscle spasms), and a lack of coordination. 
– Vision problems. Many patients with multiple sclerosis report blurred vision, pain on eye movement, color blindness, and poor contrast. Often, problems with vision are one of the early signs of the disorder.  
– Bladder dysfunction. This symptom is reported by over 80% of patients. It is characterized by frequent or urgent urination, hesitancy in starting urination, and the development of various urinary tract infections. 
– Cognitive changes. Patients with multiple sclerosis lose the ability to process incoming information, solve problems, make decisions, and accurately perceive the environment. 
– Emotional changes. They include depression, anxiety, irritability, mood swings, episodes of uncontrollable crying or laughing, and others. 


The exact cause of multiple sclerosis remains unknown. However, there are several factors that have been suggested as possible causes of multiple sclerosis, including: 
– Genes; 
– Lack of vitamin D and sunlight; 
– Teenage obesity; 
– Smoking; 
– Viral infections.  
It is also necessary to point out that women are 2-3 times more likely to have multiple sclerosis than men.  

Glossary of terms 

Demyelination – a pathological process characterized by destruction of the myelin sheath 
Myelin – the material in the central nervous system wrapping around axons.  
Autoimmune Disease – the process in which the immune system of the body mistakenly produces antibodies to attack the normal tissues.  
Axon – a nerve fiber carrying information from the nerve cell to other nerve cells. 

Facts and Information about Vascular Disease

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Vascular disease is an abnormal condition of blood vessels including veins and arteries. The body circulates its blood through blood vessels, if any problems should occur within these areas, it could cause severe pain, disability, and even death. Vascular diseases are very common although many individuals don’t even know they have one. Thus, outside of the heart, vascular diseases can present themselves anywhere. Unfortunately, these diseases seem to be turning into an epidemic in the US with the increase of Type II diabetes, obesity, and an aging population. 

Types and Symptoms 

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is one type of vascular disease that affects around 8.5 million Americans each year and pulmonary emboli and DVTs affect at least 900,000 people. The most common of vascular diseases are PAD, stroke, critical limb ischemia (CLI), carotid artery disease (CAD), abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), deep vein thrombosis (DVT), arteriovenous malformation (AVM), chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), pulmonary embolism (blood clots), and varicose veins. 


Vascular diseases can occur at any time in anyone. Everyone is at risk and both men and women are affected equally. It is most common for vascular disease to occur around sites of turbulent blood flow, mainly when the direction of blood flow changes abruptly.  
Depending on the specific disease, causes may include: 
• Infection 
• Genetics 
• Medicines and hormones 
• Injury 
• Heart diseases such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol  
The cause may not be known in some cases. 
Recent studies have found a common genetic variation in chromosome 6p24, in five vascular diseases including coronary artery disease, cervical artery dissection, migraine headaches, hypertension, and fibromuscular dysplasia. However, it still isn’t clear how this polymorphism affects risks for numerous diseases.  

Glossary of Terms 

• Amurosis fugax – Temporary vision loss or blindness due to plaque blocking the blood supply to the eye. 
• Aneurysm – The abnormal weakening of the artery wall that causes a balloon-like appearance and enlarging it to over twice its normal size. 
• Antiplatelet – Medication, like aspirin that prevents platelets from clumping together, which often occurs first in artery clotting. 
• Aorta – The main blood vessel in the abdomen and chest that transports the blood from the heart. 
• Artery – A blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood to the body from the heart.  
• Atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis – a process that takes place within the arteries where fatty substance deposits, calcium, cholesterol, or fibrin (plaque) builds up inside the inner lining 
• Blood clots – pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis.  
• Blood pressure – The force of blood that pushes against blood vessel walls. 
• Bypass – A surgical procedure that redirects blood flow around blocked arteries. 
• Coronary artery disease – a disease that involves blockage or narrowing of an artery usually caused by plaque buildup. 
• Raynaud’s disease – a disorder that makes the blood vessels narrow when you feel stressed or cold. 
• Stroke – a serious condition that occurs when blood stops flowing to your brain. 
• Varicose veins – twisted, swollen veins that appear under the skin. 
• Vasculitis – inflamed blood vessels.