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Does Sitting Too Much Affect Your Heart Health?

There is a new area of science looking specifically at the harms of physical inactivity or sedentary behavior, which is not necessarily the inverse of benefits of physical activity, according to Nina Radford, MD, Cardiologist and Director of Clinical Research at Cooper Clinic.

Most of the data suggests that if you spend too much time sitting, you’re more likely to develop risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. The more time you spend sitting, the more weight you gain, the more your waist circumference increases, your blood sugar rises and cholesterol profile worsens.

Improve Your Heart Health
There are several conventional recommendations to people who sit long periods of time each day. Some of these suggestions include:

  • Get up once an hour and take a walk.
  • Stand while on the phone or opening mail.
  • Rather than emailing a colleague who works down the hall, walk down the hall to speak to them instead.
  • At lunch, take some time to walk around your building or around the block.

While these suggestions can’t hurt, there’s a bigger picture we have to look at, says Dr. Radford. Being sedentary isn’t only about sitting at your desk at work. It’s a sedentary lifestyle that is truly dangerous. People who are sedentary get less moderate physical activity and may have worse diet patterns.

New research shows that someone who is physically fit and makes regular exercise a priority, but who has a desk job, has fewer risk factors for heart disease than someone who has a desk job and is not physically fit.

“There is a new idea that if you sit at your desk all day, going to the gym at night won’t help, but that is not necessarily the case,” says Dr. Radford.

Researchers at The Cooper Institute have found that the adverse effects of time spent sitting are less pronounced the more fit you are.

“The notion that you can’t undo the ravages of a sedentary lifestyle by exercising every day is a bad public health message and the data doesn’t convincingly demonstrate that,” says Dr. Radford

So what does Dr. Radford recommend? Be generally active and get an annual physcial exam. Make it a priority to get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week. If you do have to sit long periods of time, get up and move around as much as possible, but the real emphasis is on living an otherwise active lifestyle.

Treadmill Stress Test at Cooper Clinic

March 24, 2014 3 comments

Did you know that more than 100,000 patients have done the treadmill stress test at Cooper Clinic? A few weeks ago we began a blog series to dive into each of the six components of Cooper Clinic’s comprehensive preventive exam. To get caught up, read about the first two components.

  1. Medical Exam & Counseling
  2. Laboratory Analysis
  3. Cardiovascular Screening
  4. Multidetector Computed Tomography (MDCT) Scan
  5. Skin Cancer Screening
  6. Nutrition Consultation

Component #3: Cardiovascular Screening

Since Cooper Clinic opened in 1970, we have used the treadmill stress test to help detect heart artery blockages and assess patients’ overall risk of developing heart disease in the future. Dr. Cooper was the first physician in Dallas to routinely use the treadmill stress test for this purpose. And since then our research has proven the importance of having this test done annually.

The stress test is a standardized walking or cycling test used to determine cardiovascular fitness, assess functional capacity and the conduction system of the heart and identify possible underlying coronary artery disease. Before, during and after the stress test, the electrocardiogram (EKG) is monitored continuously and blood pressure is measured frequently to assess the cardiovascular response to exercise.

On the Treadmill

At Cooper Clinic we use a modified Balke treadmill protocol for the treadmill stress test. With this protocol, the treadmill speed remains at 3.3 mph. We increase the work of the heart by adding elevation.

  • First minute—Zero percent elevation
  • Second minute—Two percent elevation
  • Third minute—Three percent elevation

After the second minute, we increase the elevation by one percent for each minute up to a maximal incline of 25 percent. As you can imagine, that is a pretty steep hill! For those few individuals who can exercise beyond 25 minutes, the incline stays at 25 percent and then the speed increases 0.2 mph/minute until exhaustion. We use this protocol rather than the Bruce protocol, which is used in most cardiology offices for the diagnosis of coronary blockages. Why? Because the Balke treadmill protocol has a more gradual increase in cardiac workload so that even our most unfit patients can participate to provide the data to write an exercise prescription.

How Performance Provides Results

Patients will often ask, ‘how long do I need to walk on the treadmill?’ In order to obtain an adequate test for the diagnosis of coronary blockages, a patient should reach a heart rate of at least 85 percent of their predicted maximal heart rate. The predicted maximal heart rate is estimated using the equation “220 minus age”. For example, if you are 50 years old, your predicted maximal heart rate is 220-50 or 170 beats per minute. However, we often exercise patients beyond this threshold value of 85 percent of predicted maximal heart rate because we stop the treadmill based on the patient’s exertion level rather than a predetermined heart rate. For many of our very fit patients, if we stopped the test when their heart rate reached 85 percent of their predicted maximal heart rate, we would have a result that didn’t reflect how hard they work when they exercise and we couldn’t create a realistic exercise prescription for them.

Scientifically Proven

A recent study from Cooper Clinic involving 25,642 individuals followed for 7.2 years, showed that in addition to assessing changes on the EKG during a stress test, other non-EKG measures helped predict the risk of death from all causes or from cardiovascular disease. Including:

  • Functional capacity (how long you exercised on the treadmill)
  • Resting heart rate
  • If the heart rate increased appropriately during exercise
  • How fast the heart rate recovered after exercise

Unlike its use in other settings, the treadmill stress test at Cooper Clinic is used as an objective way to measure fitness. Sure, we can ask you how often you exercise; we can ask you how hard you work during exercise, but nothing provides a real measure of fitness like your performance on the treadmill.

In 1989, a landmark paper from The Cooper Institute 501(c)(3) nonprofit examined 10,224 men and 3,120 women who had undergone fitness (treadmill) testing. After a follow-up of slightly more than eight years, research showed the risk of death from any cause decreased as fitness increased in both men and women. In addition, cardiovascular and cancer death rates were lower among the higher fit individuals.

Since that time, numerous scientific publications from The Cooper Institute have demonstrated the benefits of being fit and the risks of being unfit:

  • Men who maintained or improved their fitness were less likely to die from anything or from cardiovascular disease versus the unfit men who remained unfit over time.
  • The health benefits of fitness include reduced risk for developing risk factors for heart disease including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • The risk of low fitness approaches the risk of smoking.
  • Being fit reduces the risk of stroke and depression.
  • Being fit reduces the risk of dying from lung and gastrointestinal cancers.

Most recently, The Cooper Institute has shown that fitness at mid-life (average age in the upper 40s) impacts health—including the development of heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s disease—and is a predictor of health care costs in later life. The average follow-up was between 24-26 years.

Given the proven health benefits of fitness, most experts recommend that a fitness evaluation should be part of routine preventive care as an independent “vital sign” that can be directly modified by routine physical activity. At Cooper Clinic, we do exactly that. Once we measure your fitness, we can use that information to create an individualized exercise prescription to improve your fitness or keep you fit.

To learn more about the treadmill stress test at Cooper Clinic, click here.

Live Longer, Be Lean, Be Strong!

November 20, 2013 1 comment

Cooper Clinic’s Rick Wilson, MD, FASDS recently published a new book/his first book, Ultimate Health with Tony Jeary, Jennifer Engels, MD, and Tammy Kling.

Ultimate Health isn’t your traditional health book. “This book in intentionally basic and designed for simplicity,” says Wilson.

Dr. Wilson just celebrated his six years as a preventive and cosmetic dermatologist and vein specialist at Cooper Clinic. He said he has always wanted to write a book and is glad he found a team to produce Ultimate Health.

“We wrote this book to change your beliefs about aging and longevity. We want to guide you to developing helpful habits that will add years to your life and life to your years,” Wilson’s co-author, Tammy Kling stated.

The Founder and Chairman of Cooper Aerobics, Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH and his son and CEO Tyler Cooper, MD, MPH contributed to Ultimate Health as along with many other health and wellness experts from Cooper Aerobics.

In the first section of the book, the authors selected 20 areas that can have the most impact on your health from lifestyle to mental management, vision to vitamins. Each topic is covered at-length and has Ultimate Health VIPs (very important points) at the end of each chapter for quick reference.

The second section of the book consists of “Reference Lists of 25”. This includes, 25 Healthy Foods, 25 Unhealthy Foods, 25 Terms to know, 25 Actions to Speed up Your Metabolism and 25 Tools for Your Ultimate Health Tool Chest. And, the third section is packed with Health Tools.

We are proud of Dr. Rick Wilson and his team’ collaboration to create Ultimate Health and help extend our mission at Cooper Aerobics, to Cooperize the World!

Ultimate Health is available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle. Learn more about the Cosmetic & Preventive Dermatology and services by Dr. Rick Wilson at Cooper Clinic here.

Dr. Rick Wilson is a preventive and cosmetic dermatologist and vein specialist at Cooper Clinic. He received a Bachelor of Science from The University of Oklahoma and a Doctor of Medicine at The University of Texas at San Antonio. He completed an internship in internal medicine at The University of Oklahoma, Tulsa and a dermatology residency at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Dr. Wilson is certified by the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine and author of Ultimate Health: Live Longer – Be Lean – Be Strong! (Carpenters Son Publishing, 2013). Dr. Wilson served in the U.S. Army as a flight surgeon and was Chief of Dermatology at Irwin Army Community Hospital in Fort Riley, Kan.

Feel That? It’s Us Pushing You to Push Yourself!

November 6, 2013 Leave a comment

In October Cooper Fitness Center, Dallas hosts the COOPERTHON exercise challenge. From Oct. 1-31 members track their minutes of exercise. Members earn a prize if they log 900 minutes and with 1,685 minutes they are recognized as an elite participant.

Of course, having a goal, especially when you’re working towards it it with others, keeps our members motivated. And a  little personal motivation can be just what we all need to keep going. Many members and teammates noticed an particular teammate (employee) who provided encouragement and motivation as they worked to complete the COOPERTHON Challenge. Cooper Fitness Center Front Desk Associate Nadia begins her day opening the fitness center for our members at 5 a.m. Her smiling face and words of encouragement greet members at the service desk as they begin their workout. Nadia leads by example by running on  the treadmill or AMT machine for 60-80 minutes every day, except Sunday. To support her aerobic exercise, Nadia trains with weights for 20 minutes (every other day).

With Nadia’s consistent workout regime, she completed 900 minutes of exercise by Oct. 15!  She celebrated her one year anniversary with Cooper Fitness Center in July and we hope to see many more years of her inspiration.

Congratulations Nadia and the 350+ members of Cooper Fitness Center for logging 539,494 minutes of exercise during October and completing the COOPERTHON Challenge. If you want to make a healthy change consider a few lessons from COOPERTHON to push yourself—set a goal, track your exercise, tell others and find a friend or two, someone like Nadia to keep you motivated!

Learn more about a membership at Cooper Fitness Center here and schedule a tour.

Maintain Your Weight Throughout Your 40s and 50s

ImageWe’ve all heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’ – this is especially true for women who are approaching their golden years. A 2010 study in the International Journal of Obesity found women gain an average of 12 pounds within eight years after menopause. The drop in estrogen decreases fat burning by 32 percent, the study notes. In the absence of estrogen, the hormone that is lost with menopause, women whose excess pounds once settled on their thighs or hips (in the form of subcutaneous fat) find the weight shifting to the belly as visceral fat wrapping dangerously around the body’s organs.

But there are preventive measures women can take to stay healthy when aging. Once women enter their 50s, they need about 1/4 to 1/3 fewer calories than in their 20s and 30s to maintain their weight, but you need the same amount of protein. So it becomes this challenge of doing more with less, and trying to pack more quality into fewer calories. This is because your metabolism, or the rate at which your body burns calories, slows down as you age.

Meridan Zerner, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, Registered Dietitian at Cooper Clinic, offers a plan to compensate for the changes in metabolism.

  • Don’t skip breakfast. It wakes up your metabolism – incorporate some lean protein such as eggs or egg whites. This is the time to have smart carbohydrates such as oatmeal or wholegrains.
  • Instead of three big meals, have several small meals to keep your energy up and reduce hunger and cravings.
  • Choose lean protein throughout the day.
  • Snack on fresh fruits and vegetables – they keep you feeling full and supply nutrients, antioxidants and fiber.
  • Drink lots of water (and have some tea) to stay hydrated.
  • Add extra fiber to help keep you feeling full.
  • Get some shut-eye. If you don’t get enough rest, it’s hard to lose body fat. Aim for 7-8 hours.

The other good news is that you can increase your metabolism rate by increasing lean muscle mass through strength training and aerobic activity. Your metabolism can also be affected by how frequently you exercise – the more physically active you are, the more you can boost your metabolism.

Meridan recommends the following:

  • Include resistance training two to three times a week to help boost weight loss and build bone density. Without it, women tend to lose bone density after menopause.
  • Commit to cardio! Do aerobic exercises at least thirty minutes four or five times per week, as the American College of Sports Medicine recommends. That can mean walking, jogging, biking, Zumba or any continuous movement. If you want more fat reduction, talk with your doctor about increasing the intensity or duration of your exercise.

For more health tips, sign up for our free e-newsletter, The Cooperized.

Fitness Testing: The 12 Minute Cooper Test

March 18, 2013 2 comments
12-Minute Test

Dr. Cooper (right) and a fellow researcher conduct aerobic tests on a U.S. Air Force serviceman.

Just as the definition of fitness has evolved, so have the ways in which fitness is measured. You may know that Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, coined the word aerobics, but did you know that years ago he also developed a timed test to evaluate fitness?

In the 1960s Dr. Cooper worked with nearly 27,000 men and women in the military to gather research on the impact of physical fitness on the body. He worked with NASA to develop the first preflight conditioning and in-flight antideconditioning program for astronauts. He conducted field testing, bed studies to simulate weightlessness, oxygen consumption tests on treadmills, and more. All of the information culminated in the creation of the 1.5-mile and 12-minute-mile tests to measure aerobic capacity.

During the 12-minute mile test, a person runs, jogs or walks as fast as they can in 12 minutes. Their results are based on how much distance covered in that time frame. The 1.5 mile test is designed to see how fast a person can run, jog or walk that specific distance.

The 12-minute test, often called the Cooper Test, has been used worldwide. The Federation Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, has used the test to measure individual athletes’ fitness in professional soccer since the early ’70s.

To learn more about this history of Aerobics and its impact around the world, read our 45th Anniversary Infographic.

Aerobic vs. Cardiovascular Exercise

Aerobic ExerciseAerobic exercise or cardiovascular exercise – what’s the difference? You may not know the answer to the question, but it’s simple. They are the same!

As you kick off your cardio routine, it’s important to know if what you’re doing is truly aerobic or not, and which exercises qualify as aerobic. Aerobic exercise must meet three criteria:

  1. It must engage large muscle groups.
  2. It must use lots of oxygen.
  3. It should be something you can do continuously.

When an activity meets all three of Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper’s criteria, it is considered to be an aerobic or cardiovascular exercise. In Dr. Cooper’s book, Aerobics for Total Well-Being, he developed a list primary and secondary aerobic activities.

Primary exercises would exercise such as cross-country skiing, swimming, running, jogging, cycling or walking. Dr. Cooper also documented a list of secondary exercises. They meet the three criteria pretty well, but not quite as well as the primary exercises. For example, circuit weight training would fall into the secondary exercises.

Finding Your Sweet Spot
There are multiple activities you can do to gain cardiovascular benefits. Everyone has their own workout preferences, and you may find that you’re more adherent to an exercise program if you vary what you’re doing. Try switching up your activities throughout the week.

How much aerobic exercise do yo need for health benefits? The Cooper Institute is a proponent of the American College of Sports Medicine‘s recommendation to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity as a minimum for good health. Depending on what your goals are, it will influence you how much exercise you should do.

Remember – more is better, but only to a certain point. It varies from person to person, so there’s not an definitive answer on how much is too much. The sweet spot for optimal health benefits of aerobic activity is in between 150 to 300 minutes per week. Once you go beyond 300 minutes, you may receive additional fitness benefits, but you may not get added health benefits.

What’s your favorite aerobic exercise?