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You Have the Power to Protect Your Heart Health


You Have the Power to Protect Your Heart Health

You Have the Power to Protect Your Heart Health
lisa knight By Guest Blogger Lisa M. Knight, Office of Communications, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health February is American Heart Month, providing an annual reminder to take your heart health seriously. Heart disease is the leading killer of American men and women, more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. Heart disease can lead to angina (chest pain), heart attackstroke and other serious health problems. And heart disease is a lifelong condition – once you get it, you’ll always have it. The good news is that you can take action to protect your heart health. Heart disease is largely preventable and manageable.   Here are steps to get you started as you take charge of your heart health this February: Step 1. Know your risk. Understand the risk factors for heart disease – that is, the conditions or habits that increase your chance of getting the disease. Having just one risk factor increases your risk for heart disease. Having more than one risk factor is especially serious, because risk factors tend to “gang up” and worsen each other’s effects. Risk factors for heart disease that you can do something about are cigarette smoking, high blood pressurehigh blood cholesterol,overweight, lack of physical activity, diabetes and pre-diabetes, unhealthy diet and stress. Only a few risk factors – such as age, gender and family history – can’t be controlled. Many people have at least one risk factor for heart disease, and some risk factors (such as high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol) don’t always have obvious signs or symptoms. So don’t wait for your health care provider to mention heart disease or its risk factors. Make an appointment, and tell him or her that you want to keep your heart healthy and would like help in achieving that goal. Ask questions about your chances of developing heart disease and how you can lower your risk. Step 2. Take action to lower your risk. Once you’ve learned your personal risk for heart disease, your doctor or health care team will be valuable partners in helping you set and reach goals for heart health. A healthy lifestyle can lower your risk for heart disease. Aim to eat healthy foods, be active, stop smoking and “know your numbers” (blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index (BMI) and blood glucose). For most of us, taking action means changing our daily habits, which can be a real challenge. Set specific, realistic goals, and try tackling only one habit at a time. Remember that nobody’s perfect. No one always eats the ideal diet or gets just the right amount of physical activity, and it may take more than one try to make a long-term change. Figure out what’s stopping you from making or sticking to healthy habits. Get back on track when you slip up. Making small changes can make the healthy choice an easy choice. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the far end of the parking lot and walk and serve fruit instead of cookies or ice cream for dessert. Check out these tips on healthy cooking and snacking, and this pocket guide for tips on how to select healthier options while eating “on the go” (take-out or dining out). Step 3. Embrace a heart healthy lifestyle. Heart healthy living matters because even if you don’t have heart disease, you may have conditions or habits that can lead to heart disease. What does “heart healthy” mean? A heart healthy lifestyle includes following a healthy diet, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking and managing stress. A heart healthy lifestyle can lower your risk for heart disease or, if you already have heart disease, help keep it from getting worse. To break it down:
  • Follow a healthy diet – A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans and fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. A healthy diet is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt) and added sugars. (Check out
  • Be physically active – People of all ages and abilities can be physically active. Benefits include improved fitness, improved mental health and better ability to do everyday tasks. Talk with your health care provider about what types and amounts of activity are safe for you. (Check out
  • Maintain a healthy weight – Your weight is the result of many factors, such as environment, family history and genetics, metabolism and behavior or habits. If you’re overweight or obese, work with your health care provider to create a reasonable weight-loss program that combines a healthy eating plan, correct portion sizes and physical activity. (This booklet contains practical information and tips.)
  • Quit smoking – If you smoke, quit. Try new activities or hobbies to replace smoking. Talk with your health care provider about programs and products that can help you quit. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke. (Check out
  • Manage stress – Stress is a part of day-to-day life. Learning how to manage stress, relax and cope with problems can improve your emotional and physical health.
Finally, make following a heart healthy lifestyle a family goal. The best time to start learning heart healthy habits is in childhood because our habits shape our lives. Also, heart disease develops gradually and can start at a young age – but it’s never too late to make changes for heart health. Step 4. Spread the message. If you’ve got a heart, heart disease could be your problem. Fortunately, you have tremendous power to prevent heart disease and you can start today. Talk to your friends and family about the importance of heart health. Share what you learn about how to prevent or manage heart disease. Invite them to join you in learning new heart healthy habits. If you make lifestyle changes a group effort, the changes will be easier (and more fun!). Let American Heart Month inspire you to make changes now for a lifetime of heart health. Lisa M. Knight is a science writer-editor in the communications office of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which conducts and supports research that protects and improves the health of all Americans. She supports the development of health education materials and the translation of complex scientific discoveries into actionable health information. Visit the NHLBI website to find Health Topics articles, which provide science-based, plain-language information about heart, lung and blood diseases and conditions; a BMI calculator and other healthy weight resources; healthy recipes on the Healthy Eating website; and an online catalog of educational materials.  

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New Disability.Blog: Driving Blind


Driving Blind

Driving Blind
lightened and smiling Tod Justin By Guest Blogger Tod Purvis If you knew you were going blind, what would be the last thing you would want to see before everything went dark? A loved one’s face, the ocean, a sunset, the Grand Canyon? In 2010, my brother Justin and I tried to answer that question. We set out on a 40 day, 13,000 mile road trip around the continental United States. We did this not only to have a great adventure, but also because we’re going blind.   Both Justin and I have been diagnosed with a rare eye disease calledchoroideremia. This degenerative disease, which affects only 6,000 people in the United States, slowly erodes sight by causing the physical decay of a critical part of the eye itself. Vision loss starts in the outer, or peripheral, vision and moves inward (which led us to map our route around the periphery of the continental U.S.). With no treatment and no cure, those affected by choroideremia face the possibility of total blindness at some future time. Currently, I have about 40 percent of my vision remaining, while Justin is more affected, with about 11 percent left. We were incredibly fortunate to be joined on our journey by a three-man film crew who captured our every move during the trip. Their hard work and creative skill resulted in the creation of a documentary film, Driving Blind. One of the main reasons for having this adventure was to cram as much visual information into our eyes as we could while we were still able to see.  But it turned into so much more. Not only did we get to see some of the most amazing sights in America, we met some incredible people as well – some were friends and family, though many were strangers we happened on in the course of any given day. And we learned something – when you have a rare disease and you start to share this with people, you learn that everybody has something. That everybody needs something. And that everybody is willing to give something. I’d like to tell you about one of the experiences from our trip. On Day 19, we arrived in Portland, Ore.  We met up with Steve, the friend of our director. Steve decided, since we had been driving so much, that he wanted to be our chauffeur. So we all climbed into his classic bio-diesel Mercedes Benz and took off. Steve drove us around for about two hours, showing us all the sights in the city, which neither Justin or I had seen before. Finally, he asked us if we wanted to do something new and different, something that might open our eyes. When we agreed and asked what Steve had in mind, he would only say, “It’s a surprise.” We pulled up to a house somewhere in suburban Portland. Steve led us inside, where we learned that we would be getting into a sensory deprivation tank. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a lightless, soundproof tank filled with saltwater that is warmed to body temperature. You get undressed, climb in the tank and float there in total darkness. The warm water gives a sensation of weightlessness, while the pitch-blackness…well, here’s what happened to me. When I got in and closed the door of the tank, there was a little light in the back top of the tank that you were supposed to turn off when you were ready to start. So I laid back and began floating in the water and then reached up and turned off the light. I’m floating there in total darkness. Not too bad…yet. Then as I’m floating there, I start to think “This is what blindness is.” Darkness. Nothingness. And (I can admit this) I started to get really sad – and really scared. All I could think was, “Wow. I don’t want to go blind. This totally sucks!!” By this point, I was starting to really freak out and I was about to call it quits and get out. And that’s when I saw it. Now remember – this is a totally black box with no lights on and no light can penetrate in from the outside. But I realized that, if I turned my head a certain way, I could see a tiny reflection off the plastic cover of the light in the ceiling of the tank. Enough to where I could actually reach up and touch it and reassure myself that it was there. Now, for you to understand how amazing this was, you have to know more about choroideremia. It ruins your night vision as well as your peripheral vision. Lighting conditions that a normally sighted person might call dim are, for me, almost completely black, making places like restaurants and movie theaters visual minefields where I’m constantly afraid I’ll walk into something or someone. So the fact that I could see anything in this dark box thrilled me. I actually starting laughing and it brought me up out of that literal dark place where I had been. And that’s when I realized that it was going to be okay. Those are the little moments that we all need from time to time. This happened on just one day out of 40, and the other days were just as amazing.  Each one took us to a new place of incredible natural beauty – mountains, oceans, deserts, each more awe-inspiring than the last – or brought us into contact with a complete stranger who, upon hearing our story, wanted to share some unique local food or experience or place with us. It was the trip of a lifetime – a trip we only embarked on because of our disability. And to the question, “What would I want to see before I go blind?” The answer is: Everything.  I’m still taking it all in. For more about our journey and our documentary, please All proceeds from the film will go to theChoroideremia Research Foundation. Since finishing the trip, Tod moved back to Los Angeles and took the longer trip, with Brian, of creating and editing Driving Blind while also working full-time as an editor for television.  Tod is currently working on“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”  He is now putting together a book version of the film, Driving Blind: Behind the Wheel – A Photographic Journey into Blindness.  Last year Tod took up snowboarding, and is looking forward to a different kind of journey when he marries the love of his life, Darci.  
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Apply for Disability Benefits Today!

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Applying for Social Security Disability is the first step in obtaining disability benefits from the government. If you are reading this email then it means you are at the very beginning of a long process. You will be given deadlines to respond to requests by Social Security and they will find it very easy to deny your benefits or reduce your maximum benefits over a missed date. Get used to this. As you go through this process you will find that these dates can make or break your claim. The application date is the very first event in your Social Security Disability claim. Should you prevail, the Application date establishes the day that Social Security must start paying you. Delaying your benefits by even one month can harm your case. The burden is on you to prove you are disabled according to their rules and this is a time sensitive process. You need to be aware that time is money. Social Security works month to month and the date of your initial application is really the month of your application. This is important to you because it involves money. You need to act before the end of the month in order to preserve your maximum benefits.

I definitely encourage you to at least preserve your rights by starting your application. According to Social Security’s rules you only need to start the application to protect your rights. It’s called a protective filing. You can do this online and you don’t have to complete the application to protect your rights. Please take a moment and start a Disability Application online. You apply through the Social Security website and it is very secure. You don’t have to finish the application in one sitting. In fact if you get to the 8 digit application screen then you have successfully preserved your rights. If you did that then you are well on your way to getting your benefits from Social Security. Let’s get a healthy start to get the benefits you deserve. Tim

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