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The month of February is heart-health month. So while you're picking out a personal gift for the person who holds your heart dear, remember to take care of your own ticker.

Typically, men are the designated audience for information regarding heart-disease prevention. But for women older than 45—specifically, post-menopausal women—heart disease knows no gender.

Although each woman will present different symptoms of a heart attack, there are a few commonalities. The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease recommends seeking help the moment your body tells you something is wrong through these indicators:

• Discomfort, tightness, uncomfortable pressure, fullness or squeezing in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes, or it comes and goes.
• Crushing chest pain.
• Pressure or pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, upper back, jaw or arms.
• Dizziness or nausea.
• Clammy sweats, heart flutters or paleness.
• Unexplained feelings of anxiety, fatigue or weakness—especially with exertion.
• Stomach or abdominal pain.
• Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.

There is also the rare occasion where women may suffer no pain or other symptoms during an attack. This is why it is crucial to have your doctor perform an EKG or blood-enzyme test on a periodic basis. As an ACSM health-fitness specialist, the Club's Metabolic Testing Specialist and Cardio Coach, Annelise Digiacomo recognizes that silent heart attacks often accompany a condition called "silent ischemia," which is a long-term shortage of blood and oxygen to the heart due to the accumulation of plaque in the arteries. A simple cardiac-stress test will help evaluate any problems.

"Your risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke increases with the number of metabolic risk factors you have," said Annelise. "In general, a person who has metabolic syndrome is twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes as someone who doesn't have metabolic syndrome, which is a group of risk factors."

One of the easiest ways to keep your ticker ticking flawlessly is to engage in cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis. Habitual exercise helps strengthen the heart (it is a muscle, after all) and the lungs.

The Wellness Department offers Wellness Evaluations in the form of active and resting Metabolic Tests to help with the process. "It helps us determine physical and nutritional requirements for optimal performance and/or weight management," said Annelise. These tests help define accurate cardio training zones and thresholds, show where you are most aerobically efficient along with revealing your daily caloric consumption needed just to function on a daily basis. "With the lab-quality, science-based data we receive, training and nutrition plans can be tailored to fit your individualized health and fitness needs, helping to minimize heart-risk factors to live a longer, healthier life," said Annelise.

This month—and any other day—take time to educate yourself and your body. The more aware you are, the more your body will pay its thanks.

wellness warrior

wellness photoSELF-MOTIVATION
By Allyson Marrs

Each month, we'll feature a Bellevue Club member who's made a change in his or her life with the help of the Club's Wellness program.

He's shed 11 inches since he seriously started his journey three years ago. But Oscar Abello is still working hard to attain his goals.

Steadily focused on avoiding any health issues that can come along with age, he's pushed himself to keep it in perspective. "I have never liked exercise," he said, "but I recognize that it is essential to a healthy lifestyle. I just have to get past the natural inclination to skip it."

So, Oscar finds the balance. "For me, it's a double whammy of food and exercise. It's more about portion control and eating the right kinds of foods and expanding the variety to keep it interesting.  I know I cannot cook something for multiple meals, as I will tend to overeat. Instead, I only make what I am going to eat for that meal."

As with any lifestyle change, the process can be difficult—with multiple plateaus and seemingly constant challenges. One tool to help keep motivated is setting specific goals. Oscar has a weight-loss goal for his 50th birthday, but even if he doesn't quite reach it, that doesn't mean he won't try. "I am giving it a solid effort to get as close to it as possible," he said.

His personal trainer Karrie Dutton has great fun working with him twice a week. "His favorite workout is the punch with the bands so he can beat up his trainer," she laughed. "He's very dedicated and never misses a workout, and he's a lot of fun to train with!"

When Oscar's not working with Karrie, he's doing various cardio or swimming four to five times per week. It's a continuing process. "You just have to work through it and not get discouraged by temporary setbacks," he said.


Wellness Coordinator: Jason Kennedy | 425-688-3461 |

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