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Stay on Top of Your Heart Health During COVID-19, Part II

Posted on Aug 27, 2020 in Heart & Cardiac, Scroll Images

In another post, we provided information on how to read your blood pressure and what medical conditions may result from having prolonged high blood pressure. In this article, we offer tips from Michael X. Pham, M.D., M.P.H., chief of cardiology with Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco on how to reduce—or maintain—your blood pressure.

Better Diet, Better Heart Health

To lower one’s risk of high blood pressure, Dr. Pham encourages people to limit their sodium and eat a heart-healthy diet. Canned foods, condiments, deli meats, salad dressings and sauces are some of the biggest sodium culprits. Instead, make meals using garlic, lemon juice, herbs, spices or seasonings with no salt added. Do not add salt to prepackaged or frozen meals, as they are already loaded with sodium.

What goes on our plates at mealtime also offers insight into how healthfully we’re eating. “Mentally divide your plate into four quadrants. Two quarters (or half) should be fruits and veggies. One quarter should be proteins (lean fish, chicken or beans), and the remaining quarter should be a whole grain or starchy vegetable (brown rice, sweet potato),” says Dr. Pham.

Dr. Pham says that staying hydrated with water is good. People should avoid sugary drinks and alcohol as much as possible.

Get Those Steps In

Exercise is also key in maintaining a healthy heart. For this reason, it’s important to walk outside every day—but check air quality levels first.

Dr. Pham recommends a goal of 7,000-10,000 steps daily. “If you can’t get in a big walk all at once, break it into shorter walks throughout the day.” With increased community spread of COVID-19, he recommends walking early in the morning or early in the evening when there are fewer people out, and, if possible, be conscious of physical distancing and wear a mask. For those who cannot go outside, take frequent standing breaks and do laps around your house or yard.”

Your Heart & COVID-19

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with moderate to severe hypertension may be at increased risk of COVID-19 complications.

“Hypertension makes it harder to fight off infections. Regular check-ups allow your provider to help manage your condition and provide a proactive plan if your blood pressure gets worse,” says Dr. Pham.

Know your numbers. An at-home blood pressure monitor, available at your local drugstore or online, can track your blood pressure readings in between checkups. Dr. Pham suggests bringing your at-home monitor to your next in-person appointment to help ensure its readings are accurate and reliable.

Award-Winning Cardiac Care

In August 2020, ten hospitals across Sutter’s not-for-profit integrated network of care received recognition by the American Stroke Association for providing a high level of stroke care as part of the 2019 Get With The Guidelines® awards.

Additionally, 20 hospitals in the Sutter system received recognition from the American Heart Association for consistently applying the American College of Cardiology guidelines when treating patients with heart failure. Read more about these recognitions here.

Options For Care

The heart is one of your body’s most essential organs. Don’t take it—or caring for it—for granted.

Sutter Health is committed to your health and safety. If you need care or to make an appointment today, Sutter’s care teams are ready to serve you in person or by video visit.

For more on Sutter’s heart disease prevention programs, visit here.

Stay on Top of Your Heart Health During COVID-19, Part I

Posted on Aug 27, 2020 in Heart & Cardiac, Scroll Images

The pandemic has understandably transformed many of us into housebound creatures, oftentimes moving less and eating more.

“It’s created the perfect storm for developing high blood pressure. For those who are already hypertensive, their blood pressure can get out of control,” says Michael X. Pham, M.D., M.P.H., chief of cardiology with Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

People may be exercising less, can be generally feeling more stress, and may lack the normal outlets to decompress, including time with family and friends, travel, attending sporting events or going to the movies.

“People are also eating less healthy,” says Dr. Pham. They may be ordering takeout more often or eating processed foods because they last longer and require fewer trips to the store.

But there’s hope for our hearts! Dr. Pham says healthy eating and exercise can help prevent, manage, and stave off high blood pressure. “Even small changes can make a difference,” says Dr. Pham.

Blood Pressure Basics

Blood pressure readings have two numbers—systolic and diastolic. For example, a blood pressure number would be written 118/78 mm Hg. The top number (systolic) accounts for the pressure when the heart beats. The bottom number (diastolic), accounts for the pressure between heart beats.

A person will be diagnosed with high blood pressure if their systolic blood is 130 or higher and their diastolic is 80 or higher. A blood pressure reading of 120/80 mm Hg or lower is considered normal.

“If a patient’s blood pressure is high or borderline, it’s a warning sign,” says Dr. Pham.

High Blood Pressure Puts Your Heart at Risk

A person’s blood pressure rises and falls throughout the day, but, if it stays high for a long time, that person may have the medical condition of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

Hypertension can cause heart disease or kidney disease—and may lead to heart attack, stroke or even death.

“High blood pressure doesn’t usually cause symptoms—it’s a silent disease. Most people don’t know they have it until they go to their healthcare provider for a routine visit,” says Dr. Pham.

Safe Care Sites

For hypertensive patients, regular blood pressure checks allow your care team to monitor your treatment plan and the effectiveness of your medications. For those whose blood pressure is under control, preventative care is still important.

Sutter Health’s integrated network has convenient care options available to help you stay on top of your health.

In-person: Sutter care sites have implemented safety measures to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure. These include, but are not limited to: extra cleaning, screenings before entry, and mandatory masking.

Online: Sutter care sites also offer convenient access to video visits for those who don’t want to come into an office environment and don’t need direct contact. Video visits allow your doctor to see, hear and talk with you as they would during an in-person visit.

Air Quality + COVID-19. What Does This Combo Mean for Our Lung Health?

Posted on Aug 20, 2020 in Pulmonary & Lung Health, Scroll Images

SAN FRANCISCO – Wildfires burning across Northern California coupled with extreme heat and dryness has the air quality in the unhealthy range. All of this is sparking concerns for people with respiratory issues, especially those with COVID-19. Dr. Vinayak Jha, a pulmonologist affiliated with Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center, says the best way to protect ourselves from the virus and poor air quality is to stay indoors and wear a mask or face covering when outside.

Jha says elderly people, children and individuals with respiratory illnesses are particularly susceptible to elevated air pollution levels. With smoky air blanketing much of the Bay Area and the Sacramento and Central Valley regions, these at-risk populations should take extra precautions to avoid exposure.

Know before you go: View a list of Sutter Health facilities temporarily closed due to the effects of wildfires in Northern California.

Signs Wildfire Smoke May Be Affecting You

Breathing in wildfire smoke can have both immediate and long-term health impacts. In the short term, wildfire smoke can irritate the eyes and airways, causing coughing, a dry scratchy throat and irritated sinuses. Elevated particulate matter in the air can also trigger wheezing in those who suffer from asthma, emphysema or COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Contact your provider if you experience any of the following symptoms:
• Repeated coughing
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Wheezing
• Chest tightness or pain
• Palpitations
• Nausea or unusual fatigue
• Lightheadedness

What happens when a virulent virus is added to the mix? In a recent article by the San Francisco Chronicle, Jha explains that people are already concerned about catching the COVID-19 virus and becoming ill. And the situation becomes more complicated when smoke from wildfires is combined with the unusually high temperatures we’ve experienced in Northern California. This trifecta is not ideal for those with respiratory conditions.

Jha says the early science is revealing. “There are growing reports out of China, Europe and the U.S. that the more air pollution there is, the more COVID deaths and cases there are. There’s some reason for concern that wildfire smoke, besides being bad for people in general, may affect people’s susceptibility to getting the virus, too.”

Recovering from COVID-19? Living with a respiratory illness? Here’s what you should do if wildfire smoke becomes a problem.

As this fire seasons heats up, Jha recommends COVID-19 patients keep in close contact with their health care providers and avoid exerting themselves, especially if they are at the beginning of the illness.

“Continue to socially distance, and continue to wear a mask in public,” says Jha. He encourages people to check the Air Quality Index (here), check their own home air purifying system to make sure the filters are clean, and have a plan in case you need to leave the area.

Pulmonary Care

In the Sutter Health network, pulmonary specialists have deep expertise in treating acute and chronic lung conditions, including asthma, bronchiolitis, emphysema and pneumonia. They offer treatment for interstitial lung disease, advanced COPD, pulmonary nodules and pulmonary hypertension.

In light of COVID-19, Sutter Bay Medical Foundation stood up respiratory care clinics (RCCs) to prepare for increased patient demand. These exam experiences keep potentially contagious people distanced from those that aren’t, while allowing all who need in-person care to receive it.

Read more about Sutter’s respiratory care clinics here.

Sutter Health is committed to your health and safety. If you need care, make an appointment today. Our care teams are ready to serve you, either in person or by Video Visit.

Learn more about getting care during COVID-19 here.

Parents, Be Kind to Yourself as the School Year Gets Underway

Posted on Aug 12, 2020 in Mental Health & Addiction Care, Scroll Images

Many parents and guardians of school-age children are buckling up for back to school while simultaneously trying to balance their own work-from-home lives.

In an interview with CBSN, Lisa Giovannetti, an integrative psychotherapist with Sutter’s Institute for Health & Healing (IHH), lays out the psychological impact of the extended lockdown on parents and guardians. She describes how parents can help identify and manage big emotions for themselves and their children. She also addresses burnout and asks parents to acknowledge they can’t do it all— and thinking that they can isn’t being fair to themselves. After all, managing everything amid this pandemic is no picnic. It’s unfamiliar territory and parents and guardians are learning as they go.

Watch the full interview here.

To help parents and guardians out, Giovannetti discusses how to role model coping skills for kids and teens. She looks at building in structure for the whole family and setting realistic goals that can be amended since no day is going to be perfect.

“We want to acknowledge that bad days are going to happen, that’s part of life and expected during a stressful time. We want to look at how we can move forward compassionately. To mentally gear up, parents should aim for routine but also lots of flexibility,” says Giovannetti.

Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19: What to Know and How to Prepare

Posted on Aug 2, 2020 in Pulmonary & Lung Health, Scroll Images

SAN FRANCISCO – For people who experienced breathing and respiratory problems brought on by previous years’ wildfire smoke, a San Francisco health expert cautions that these individuals should be extra vigilant with their health while COVID-19 is among us.

In an article by the San Francisco Chronicle, Vinayak Jha, M.D., a pulmonologist affiliated with Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), says that people are already concerned about catching the virus and becoming ill. Having respiratory problems combined with air pollution from wildfires is not an ideal situation.

“There are growing reports out of China, Europe and the U.S. that the more air pollution there is, the more COVID deaths and cases there are,” says Jha. “There’s some reason for concern that wildfire smoke, besides being bad for people in general, may affect people’s susceptibility to getting the virus.”

Jha says breathing in wildfire smoke can cause shortness of breath, coughing and sore throat, and that having the coronavirus may worsen symptoms.

Recovering from COVID-19? Living with a respiratory illness? Here’s what you should do if wildfire smoke becomes a problem.

As the fire seasons heats up, Jha says COVID-19 patients should keep in close contact with their health care provider and avoid exerting themselves, especially if they are at the beginning of the illness.

“Continue to socially distance, and continue to wear a mask in public,” says Jha. He encourages people to have precautions in place now, before the wildfire season hits: know how to check the Air Quality Index, check your own home air purifying system to make sure the filters are clean, and have a plan in case you need to leave the area.

Pulmonary Care

In the Sutter Health network, pulmonary specialists have deep expertise in treating acute and chronic lung conditions, including asthma, bronchiolitis, emphysema and pneumonia. They offer treatment for interstitial lung disease, advanced COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), pulmonary nodules and pulmonary hypertension.

In light of COVID-19, Sutter Bay Medical Foundation stood up respiratory care clinics (RCCs) to prepare for increased patient demand. These exam experiences keep potentially contagious people distanced from those that aren’t, while allowing all who need in-person care to receive it.

Read more about Sutter’s respiratory care clinics here.

Sutter Health is committed to your health and safety. If you need care, make an appointment today. Our care teams are ready to serve you, either in person or by Video Visit.

Learn more about getting care during COVID-19 here.