What I learned at school this week

One of the advantages of retirement is being able to dabble in areas of interest. This week I participated in two age and gender related health seminars.

Windsor Park United Church was the site for the first seminar on Healthy Hearts for Women. A variety of booths provided pamphlets before the formal presentations began. Personal stories of heart attack survivors pushed home the message from the clinical experts. The session began with a TED TALK that provides both an historical perspective about why the differences in symptoms in men and women are not always identified and direction for research on women’s heart issues. The local speakers, a molecular pathophysiologist, a lab administrator from the Happy Hearts Research Program, a doctoral student from physiology, and an interventional cardiologist provided timely information and responded clearly to questions posed at the end of the session. Both the Victoria Hospital Foundation and St. Boniface Hospital have centres for research into women’s heart issues.

One of the scary facts about heart attacks in women is that in about 40% of cases, no chest symptoms are present and often symptoms, such as restlessness, anxiety, sleeplessness, neck pain, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath manifest themselves about a month prior to the attack. These symptoms are often missed or dismissed by family doctors and people with these symptoms are told to rest.

If you have any of these symptoms, call 911, explain that you think you are having a heart attack, and a team of paramedics with EKG equipment will be able to run tests and arrange the heart team to meet you at the hospital. Time is of the essence.

“Gambling with your Bones: Know your Risks” was the second health seminar of the week. Sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, the session provided tips on nutrition, on height loss, on fractures, on exercise.

Why exercise? A few key reasons are to build muscle strength, prevent falls and protect the spine. `It is understood that people who exercise regularly have lower rates of depression, heart disease, dementia, cancer, and diabetes.
What types of exercise? For people with osteoporosis, exercises are needed to increase muscle strength, improve balance and posture, and to maintain bone mass.
Target Muscle Groups Specifically the upper back, chest, shoulders, arms, upper and lower legs are the target areas. Consultations with a physiotherapist to develop appropriate exercises for the degree of bone loss will help to ensure a successful exercise regime.
Posture training individuals pay attention to how the parts of the body are aligned with each other. Poor alignment, especially during activities that involve bending and twisting place extra stress on the spine and result in fractures. Exercises that target back tensor muscles can improve the alignment of the spine. Frequent checks of alignment—balance weight on both feet, a straight ahead gaze, a tucked in chin, and drawing in of the belly and breastbone  — along with appropriate exercises can help address a curved spine.
Balance Training exercises not only increase coordination but may reduce falls and fractures. Before performing such exercises such as standing on one leg, walking on toes or heels, it is important to have a table, chair or wall nearby to hold onto or working with someone to guide you as you perform the exercises.

More information about exercise, diet, fractures, and bone health is available at Information