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What are the benefits of a vegan or vegetarian diet?
last updated:
Thu, 3/14/2013 1:49 PM

March is National Nutrition Month, and Methodist Registered Dieticians are answering your questions.

Q: What are the benefits of a vegan or vegetarian diet?

A: Studies that look at people and their habits have linked vegetarian diets with a decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and colon cancer. Basing one’s diet on plant foods—grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits—is the best way to keep saturated fat intake low and to avoid cholesterol completely. A vegan diet is free of all animal products and yields the lowest risk of heart disease. One study showed that people who adopt a vegetarian diet reduce their saturated fat intake by 26 percent and achieve a significant drop in cholesterol levels in just six weeks. Besides the very low levels of fat eaten in a typical vegetarian diet, vegetable protein also helps decrease risk for heart disease. Studies have shown that replacing animal protein with soy protein reduces blood cholesterol levels even when the total amount of fat and saturated fat in the diet remain the same. Soluble fiber helps to slow the absorption of some food components such as cholesterol. It also acts to reduce the amount of cholesterol the liver makes. Oats, barley, beans, and some fruits and vegetables are all good sources of soluble fiber. There is no fiber in any animal product.

(Answer provided by Audrey Justus MS, RD, LDN at Methodist South Hospital)

Registered Dietitians can provide Medical Nutrition Therapyrelated to blood pressure, blood sugar, preventive care, gluten free needs and some GI disorders, food allergy, decreased kidney function, weight loss/gain and more.

Most insurances cover the cost of nutrition therapy at the request of your physician. Check with your insurance company to find out if your plan covers classes, and talk to your doctor about providing a written request.

More Information:
Contact Amanda Carmichael, BS, RD, LDN, 901.516.6357
Fax physicians requests: 901.937.3334

Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease
last updated:
Mon, 2/18/2013 1:32 PM

February is Heart Month

According to the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology Foundation, 71% of all patients diagnosed with heart disease have sleep apnea.  50% of Obstructive Sleep Apnea patients have high blood pressure. Therefore, Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome is present in a large number of patients with high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, stroke, and irregular heart rhythms.  

If you or your loved one have heart disease and believe you may also have a sleep disorder, consult your physician or contact the Methodist Sleep Disorders Center directly by calling 901-683-0044 to determine your best treatment option.

This information is provided by Methodist Healthcare and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

Do you know your blood pressure?
last updated:
Fri, 1/11/2013 2:02 PM
There are benefits to monitoring your blood pressure from home. 

blood pressure monitorChecking your blood pressure at home is an important part of managing high blood pressure (hypertension). The American Heart Association and other organizations recommend anyone who has high blood pressure monitor his or her blood pressure at home.  Here are a few of the benefits to home monitoring from the staff at Mayo Clinic

Home monitoring can:

  • Help you keep tabs on your blood pressure in a familiar setting.
  • Make certain your medication is working.
  • Alert you and your doctors to potential health complications.


Because blood pressure monitors are available without a prescription, home monitoring is an easy step you can take to improve your condition. Before you get started, it's important to know the right technique and to find a good home blood pressure monitor.

Why do I need to monitor my blood pressure at home?

Monitoring your blood pressure at home offers several benefits. It can:

  1. Help make an early diagnosis of high blood pressure. If you have prehypertension or another condition that could contribute to high blood pressure, such as diabetes or kidney problems, home blood pressure monitoring could help your doctor diagnose high blood pressure earlier than if you have only infrequent blood pressure readings in the doctor's office.
  2. Help track your treatment. Home blood pressure monitoring can help people of all ages keep track of their condition—including children and teenagers who have high blood pressure. Self-monitoring provides important information between visits to your doctor. The only way to know whether your lifestyle changes or your medications are working is to check your blood pressure regularly. Keeping track of changes can help you and your health care team make decisions about your ongoing treatment, such as adjusting dosages or changing medications.
  3. Encourage better control. Taking your own blood pressure measurements can result in better blood pressure control. You gain a stronger sense of responsibility for your health, and you may be even more motivated to control your blood pressure with an improved diet, physical activity and proper medication use.
  4. Cut your health care costs. Home monitoring may cut down on the number of visits you need to make to your doctor or clinic. This can reduce your overall health care costs, lower your travel expenses and save in lost wages.
  5. Check if your blood pressure is different outside the doctor's office. Your doctor may suspect that your blood pressure goes up due to the anxiety associated with being at the doctor's office, but is otherwise normal—a condition called “white-coat hypertension.” Monitoring blood pressure at home or work, where that kind of anxiety won't cause spikes, can help determine if you have true high blood pressure or simply white coat hypertension. Home and workplace monitoring may also help when the opposite occurs—your blood pressure seems fine at the doctor's office, but is elevated elsewhere. This kind of high blood pressure, sometimes called “masked hypertension,” is more common in women and those who have cardiovascular risk factors, such as obesity, high blood cholesterol and high blood sugar. 
Not everyone can track blood pressure at home. If you have an irregular heartbeat, home blood pressure monitors might not give you an accurate reading. In some cases, the type of monitor you use could depend on your physical condition. If you're overweight or very muscular, you'll need to find a monitor with a larger arm cuff. If you have hearing loss, a monitor with a digital display may be more suitable.

For your convenience, Methodist Healthcare offers several options of home blood pressure monitoring devices to choose on the Home Medical Equipment Online Store. These lightweight blood pressure monitors fit comfortably on the wrist and feature a 60-reading memory storage.  The monitors are able to compute the average of the last 3 readings taken. 

This information is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.


Poor Sleep Can Result in Heart Disease
last updated:
Fri, 2/03/2012 10:41 AM

More than 18 million Americans have Sleep Apnea Syndrome*

What is sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a sleep-related breathing disorder in which a person quits breathing for a minimum of 10 seconds while sleeping. Sleep apnea occurs frequently throughout the sleep cycle.

How do I know if I have sleep apnea? Some of the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea are:

  • Snoring
  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
  • Morning Headaches
  • Bedwetting

So what is the connection between heart disease and poor sleep? People with cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, irregular heartbeat, and diabetes have a high prevalence of sleep apnea. Whether sleep apnea actually causes heart disease is still unclear; however, if you have sleep apnea, the chance that you will develop hypertension in the future increases significantly.

Also, because events that occur while you are sleeping tend to carry over into your daytime or normal “awake” hours, people with moderate to severe sleep apnea often develop high blood pressure.

How does my body react if I have sleep apnea? Your blood pressure rises when you have sleep apnea. Because you stop breathing with sleep apnea, the oxygen levels in your blood often fall below normal levels¬. As a result, your brain sends signals through the nervous system that essentially tell the blood vessels to constrict or "tighten up" in order to increase the flow of oxygen to the vital organs like the heart and the brain. This “tightening” of the blood vessels increases the pressure of the blood flowing through them.

The good news. The good news for patients with heart disease is that with treatment of your sleep apnea, your chances of improving your condition are considerably better. Those who are treated for sleep apnea who also have a heart condition often see significant improvement in the measures of blood pressure, heart failure, and irregular heartbeats.

If you or anyone you know has heart disease, they should discuss the possibility of sleep apnea with their treating physician.

To find out more about disorders that may be impacting your sleep, visit our website at

*According to the National Sleep Foundation.

Would you recognize a heart attack?
last updated:
Thu, 4/28/2011 1:11 PM

Would you recognize a heart attack? Symptoms of a heart attack are not the same for everyone. Most people think the only symptom of having a heart attack is extreme chest pain and the feeling of impending doom. Actually that is not typically the case. The most common symptom is shortness of breath but people present with different symptoms all the time. The majority of symptoms are listed below according to specific populations. These are the most frequent symptoms for each category but are certainly not the only ones each may present with a heart attack.

  • Men – Chest Pain, Jaw Pain, Abdominal Pain, Dizziness, Weakness, Shortness of Breath, Heart Pounding or Change in Rhythm, Sweating
  • Women – Generalized pain, Back Pain especially at the Shoulder Blades, Sleep Disturbances, GI Complaints such as nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, Heart Pounding, Sweating, Chest Pain as more sharp than crushing
  • Elderly – Shortness of Breath, Chest Pressure, Fainting, Mental Status Change or Confusion, Weakness, Fatigue
  • Diabetics – Atypical or no Chest Pain, Shortness of Breath, Sweating, Weakness

If you experience a sudden onset of any of these symptoms that do not resolve with rest and think you might be having a heart attack, what would you do? Drive yourself to the doctor or hospital? Call a family member or friend to drive you? No. You need to CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY!!

What is so special about calling the EMS? You feel you can make it to the hospital without them, right? WRONG! All of our local EMS are trained to care for heart attack victims. Before you ever get to the hospital, you can expect:

  • EKG to show if you are actively having a heart attack
  • Oxygen
  • Medications
  • Advanced Life Support if needed
  • Calling ahead to let us prepare for your arrival

This will ensure you are given priority. If you are actively having a heart attack, we will have the cardiologist contacted and the Cardiac Catheterization Lab waiting. We certainly want to provide the best care possible and minimize any chance of disability or death.

Your responsibility in your cardiac health is to be knowledgeable regarding the symptoms of a heart attack and seek treatment immediately by calling 911.


Keri Morris, R.N., BSN is a Chest Pain & Stroke Coordinator at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Call 888.777.5959 for more information.

Reducing Risk of Heart Attack
last updated:
Wed, 2/09/2011 10:57 AM

Smoking by itself increases the risk of coronary heart disease.

When it acts with the other factors, it greatly increases your risk from those factors, too. Smoking decreases your tolerance for physical activity and increases the tendency for blood to clot. It decreases HDL (good) cholesterol. Your risks increase greatly if you smoke and have a family history of heart disease. Smoking also creates a higher risk for peripheral artery disease and aortic aneurysm. It increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery, too.

Many people find support groups and hotlines helpful when quitting smoking. Knowing that someone out there understands and shares your struggle can help you stay committed to being smoke-free. These organizations may offer personalized help or listings of classes and support groups in your community:

For more information on heart disease or heart treatment in Memphis, contact the Cardiovascular Institute at 888.777.5959.


Jennifer Hutzel is a Registered Nurse at the Methodist North Chest Pain Center. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Call 888.777.5959 for more information.

Heart Disease Prevention
last updated:
Fri, 11/05/2010 10:24 AM

Weight gain and and an inactive lifestyle can influence heart diseases. These also increase the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and increased blood cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease. Knowing how to maintain or lose weight and also to maintain cardiac (heart) fitness is important.

Tips on Calories:

  1. The formula for losing or gaining weight is generally simple. If you burn more calories than you take in, you'll lose weight because the calories are used up and your body begins burning fat instead. If you take in more calories than you burn, the extra calories are converted to fat and are stored in the body.
  2. Use up at least as many calories as you take in.   
  3. Find out how many calories you should be eating and drinking to maintain your weight. 
  4. Don’t eat more calories than you know you can burn up every day. 
  5. Increase the amount and intensity of your physical activity to match the number of calories you take in. 
  6. Regular physical activity can help you maintain your weight, keep off weight that you lose and help you reach physical and cardiovascular fitness. 
  7. For weight maintenance, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. If you can’t do at least 30 minutes at one time, you can add up 10-minute sessions throughout the day.

Tips on Physical Activity:

  1. Being active brings many benefits for your heart and your health.
  2. Regular exercise improves blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  3. It also reduces risk for diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, depression, and colon and breast cancer
  4. Try to live an active lifestyle: incorporate as much physical movement into your usual daily activities as you can. For example, decide to take the stairs instead of riding the elevator; try not to drive to a nearby shop, and instead try walking to the shop. 
  5. How much activity do you need?  At least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. For losing weight, 30 to 60 minutes moderate physical activity is required on most days.


Dr. Santhosh K.G. Koshy, DM, FACC, FSCAI is the Director of Interventional Cardiology and Director of UT services at Methodist Healthcare and the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in Memphis, Tenn. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Call 888.777.5959 for more information.

How to Survive a Heart Attack
last updated:
Mon, 10/25/2010 4:01 PM

Fast action is the best weapon against heart attack! Artery opening treatments can stop a heart attack in its tracks. They can prevent or limit heart damage–but they need to be able to be performed as soon as possible after the symptoms begin.

  • Chewing and swallowing a 325 mg aspirin can reduce damage to the heart if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack.
  • Call 911 and get the person to the hospital as soon as possible.

Know the Early Symptoms of Heart Attacks

Early warning signs are present in nearly 50% of all heart attacks. Symptoms are usually present 24 hours before the attack but can occur 2-3 weeks beforehand. Symptoms are typically intermittent lasting from a few minutes to a few hours, followed by a pain-free period before the acute attack.

Non-specific signs include:

  • Weakness/fatigue
  • Clammy/sweating
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Dizziness/nervousness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Neck/back/jaw pain
  • Feeling of doom

Specific signs of a heart attack:

  • Chest discomfort
  • Chest pressure
  • Chest ache
  • Chest burning
  • Chest fullness

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense—like the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help.

Immediately call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number so an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can be sent for you. As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Learn the signs, but remember this: Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, have it checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives—maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number.

Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency medical services (EMS) staff can begin treatment when they arrive—up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. EMS staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too. It is best to call EMS for rapid transport to the emergency room.


Jennifer Hutzel is a Registered Nurse at the Methodist North Chest Pain Center. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Call 888.777.5959 for more information.

What May Trigger Chest Pain?
last updated:
Thu, 8/05/2010 12:51 PM

(HealthDay News) -- Angina is the term for chest pain that occurs when a portion of the heart isn't getting enough oxygenated blood.

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute says the following triggers may be behind angina pain:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • A blood clot
  • Extremely hot or cold weather
  • Emotional stress
  • Smoking or using cocaine
  • Medications that cause narrowing of the blood vessels
  • Insufficient blood flow to the small arteries feeding the heart

Learn more about about chest pain by asking your doctor. Find a cardiologist in Memphis using our physician locator or call 888.777.5959.

Signs of a Sleep Disorder
last updated:
Wed, 4/28/2010 1:46 PM

We know that people have 3 basic needs to survive: water, food, and sleep. Sleep is an active state that renews our mental and physical health each day and, unfortunately, most of us fail to get quality sleep. Sleep disorders lead to a poor quality of life and reduced personal health.

Did you know that untreated sleep disorders can lead to high blood pressure, increased blood sugar levels, diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and mood problems? It’s not just your health. Sleep disorders also endanger others by contributing to traffic and industrial accidents. Discussions have partly linked the Challenger disaster, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill to people suffering from a severe lack of sleep! 

Sleep disorders include problems falling asleep and/or staying asleep, interrupted sleep, and daytime sleepiness. Many times, we don’t discuss our sleeping problems with our physicians because of the short time spent with them and the need to discuss the current problem, such as a sinus infection, shortness of breath, symptoms of the flu, or other issues we are having. So, symptoms and signs that could be related to a sleep disorder may go unreported.

The most devastating sleep disorder that a person can have is the one that goes unreported, undiagnosed, and untreated, especially in a city where we have so many wonderful Sleep Disorders Centers and sleep medicine specialists. 

So, how do you know if you may have a sleep disorder? Well, some of the common signs and symptoms to talk with your doctor about are:

  • Snoring
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure and/or diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Legs jerking and/or kicking while you sleep
  • Changes in your mood such as being depressed; angry or irritated frequently
  • Bedwetting
  • Falling asleep at work; in a movie; at a stop sign or light; while talking to someone

Sometimes, you may not be aware of the things that you are doing in your sleep.  So, have a bed partner, parent, friend, family member, or child observe you and describe what you do in your sleep. 

On June 15th Dr. Robert Aguillard will present “When Snoring Becomes a Problem for You or a Family Member,” the second in a FREE series of sleep seminars sponsored by the Methodist Healthcare Sleep Disorders Center.


Kristi Lester is the manager at the Methodist Healthcare Sleep Disorders Center. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Please call the Sleep Disorders Center for more information at 901.683.0044.


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Methodist Healthcare is an integrated health care delivery system, dedicated to the art of healing through our faith-based commitment to minister to the whole person. 1211 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104 • (901) 516-7000