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It’s National Heart Health Month!

What steps can you take to improve heart health?
 Feb 4, 2019  17 min read

February is American Heart Month, when the American Heart Association sponsors campaigns to increase public awareness about heart disease and heart health.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the US. In fact, approximately 1 in 4 deaths in the US occur due to heart disease. That might seem like a scary number, but there are accessible ways all of us can prevent heart disease and improve our own cardiovascular health.

So why not start now? We’ve compiled a list of steps you can take this month to start improving your heart health!



Regular exercise comes with a lot of health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health. The American Heart Association specifically recommends getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. They aren’t the only experts recommending it; hundreds of studies have looked at the benefits of regular physical activity, revealing that it helps reduce risk factors like obesity, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome.

So what kinds of exercise are best for heart health? And how can you incorporate them into your routine this February?



Aerobic exercise is a great preventative for cardiac disease, in no small part because aerobic exercise literally means an activity that moves your body and elevates your heart rate.

There are lots of ways you can include aerobic exercises in your day. Walking, running, cycling, working on the elliptical, stair climbing, and other mild to moderate activities usually get your heart up. If you prefer working out with friends, there are group exercise classes that get you moving like water aerobics, Zumba, Pilates, and other active classes.

Remember that your aerobic activity doesn’t have to happen at the gym – or the home gym – to be good for your heart. Walking through the mall to run your errands, mowing the lawn, going out dancing for a night, or even playing a game of Wii Fit in front of the TV can serve as your prescribed 30 minutes of aerobic exercise for the day. Just get your heart pumping!



Resistance training, or strength training, consist of exercises that utilize resistance to build muscle strength. Resistance training usually consists of weightlifting of weight bearing exercises. Fewer people realize it, but resistance training doesn’t just help you gain muscle – it’s important for heart health as well!

Even mild resistance training performed twice a week has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Building muscle also helps weight loss and reduces risk factors like obesity.

Some bodyweight (no equipment) exercises you can try at home include push-ups, planks, walking lunges, wall sits, squats, and leg lifts. Investing in a set of dumbbells or light weights to use at home can be a great way to incorporate more resistance exercises into your routine.

However you decide to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, remember that slow and steady wins the heart health race. Don’t push yourself into levels of exercise you aren’t used to – e.g. walk before you run. Especially for individuals with diagnosed heart conditions, high intensity exercises can be dangerous if you’re not used to them. Start with a level of intensity that elevates your heart rate slightly but doesn’t leave you feeling exhausted afterwards. Listen to your body and consult your physician about what types of exercise are safe for you.



Diet, good or bad, can greatly impact your risk level for heart disease. In general, the American Heart Association recommends eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins, while avoiding processed foods or foods high in sugar, sodium, or fat. Let’s look at some of the specific eating habits we can all try to start following in February.



Saturated fats get a lot of back and forth in nutritionist circles. Are they good or bad? Do they raise your cholesterol or not?

Let’s talk about what saturated fats are first. There are actually a lot of different kinds of fats, but the main two categories we divide fats into are saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are found in fatty meat and dairy products. Think foods like beef, lamb, pork, lard, butter, cream, and cheese. Unsaturated fats are common in fish and plant-based foods like avocados, olives, nuts, and other vegetable oils. While saturated fats tend to solidify at room temperature, unsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature.

So, are saturated fats bad for you? Well, when the Dietary Goals for Americans was originally proposed in 1977, it was hypothesized that consuming saturated fats would increase cholesterol, which was known to be a contributing factor to heart disease. However, since the ‘70s, we’ve learned more about different types of cholesterol proteins and their unique effects on cardiovascular health. More recent studieshave examined the relation between saturated fat intake and cases of heart disease, and found no direct connection.

On the other hand, researchers havefound evidencethat replacing more saturated fats with unsaturated fats can reduce the risk of heart disease.

So, while eating saturated fats might not be the worst for you, limiting saturated fats and increasing the unsaturated fats in your diet can still help prevent heart disease. Just make sure you’re substituting saturated fats for other healthy unsaturated fats and not foods high in sugar or carbohydrates.



Unlike saturated fats, banning artificial trans fats is one thing all nutritionists can get behind.

Food processors create artificial trans fats by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils; it was originally designed to add to foods to make them more shelf stable. However, the adverse health effects of artificial trans fats has been huge. Trans fats increase bad cholesterol levels, decrease good cholesterol levels, cause inflammation, and are related to weight gain and obesity.

A lot of major fast-food chains, restaurants, and other food brands have publicly moved away from using artificial trans fats, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t find them in the grocery store. The best way to avoid artificial trans fats is to avoid processed foods, especially fried foods and baked goods.

In our busy lives, it’s often hard to cut out the convenience of processed foods entirely. If you’re going for a pizza in the frozen foods section, just try to read the nutrition label before you make your purchase. Unfortunately, even if something lists 0 grams of trans fats, a serving can still contain up to 0.5% of trans fats. The safest way to determine if something is free of artificial trans fats is to read the ingredients list. If it has ‘hydrogenated oil’ or ‘partially hydrogenated oil’, it’s a dead giveaway that the product has artificial trans fats.



Take time to take care of you. In addition to other health factors, stress can play a big part in how likely you are to develop heart disease. A lot of the ways we can prevent heart health are simply the ways we can be healthier and happier in general.



Setting a bedtime isn’t just for kids! We may think about exercising or brushing our teeth as ‘healthy habits,’ but getting enough sleep at night is an important habit to make too, and creating a nightly routine is a great way to start.

Getting enough rest isn’t just about feeling awake enough to do your aerobic exercises in the morning; sleep duration has a direct effect on heart health. Researchers looked at the multiple studies on sleep behavior and cardiovascular health. They found significant evidence that getting less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours of sleep a night led to higher instances of coronary heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.



Getting regular check-ups allows your physician to catch risk factors for heart disease before they become major problems. Going to the doctor’s office can seem like a hassle, but preventative treatments cost a lot less time and money than treatments for advanced cardiovascular diseases.

It’s recommended you get your blood pressure checked at least once every two years. If you have high blood pressure or other conditions, ask your physician if you should get it checked more often.



Your physical therapist knows more than just how to relieve pain or help you recover from surgery. We can help you find ways to improve your heart health and prevent cardiovascular disease, whether or not you have an existing heart condition.



We can help you find exercises that work for you. Sometimes, injury, surgery, or pain can prevent you from staying active and participating in the kind of exercises that improve cardiovascular health. While we’re helping you to recover and return to an active lifestyle on your own, we can also show you modulated exercises you can perform NOW. Whatever your current ability or limitations, we’ll help you find exercises that are safe and comfortable for you while still improving your heart health.



We’re your accountability partner! Sometimes, the biggest obstacle to making healthy changes in our lives is motivation. Tell us about your own fitness or wellness goals, and we can help hold you to it.



Sometimes, it’s hard to believe you can make meaningful steps towards being healthier. The habits we pick up in sedentary lifestyles can be hard to shake, and when the alternative is advertised by an athletic model, it can be hard to imagine yourself changing. But we’ve got your back!

We’ve seen a lot of patients achieve incredible things through perseverance, and we don’t hold our patients to universal standards. What is easy for one person is difficult for another. As long as you’re making significant steps for youtowards a healthier heart, we’ll be there to cheer you on.



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If you have any questions about this Notice of Privacy Practices, please contact our Privacy Officer, by telephone at (704) 824-7800 or in writing at 2675 Court Drive, Gastonia, NC 28054.
This Notice of Privacy Practices describes how we may use and disclose your protected health information to carry out treatment, payment or health care operations and for other purposes that are permitted or required by law. It also describes your rights to access and control your protected health information. Protected health information is information about you, including demographic information, that may identify you and that relates to your past, present or future physical or mental health or condition and related health care services.


We are required to abide by the terms of this Notice of Privacy Practices. We may change the terms of our Notice of Privacy Practices at any time. The new Notice of Privacy Practices will be effective for all protected health information that we maintain at that time. Upon your request, we will provide you with any revised Notice of Privacy Practices. You may request a revised version by calling or writing our Privacy Officer and requesting that a revised copy be sent to you in the mail or asking for one at the time of your next appointment.


Your protected health information may be used and disclosed by our office staff others outside of our office who are involved in your care and treatment for the purpose of providing health care services to you.
Your protected health information may also be used and disclosed to pay your health care bills and to support the operation of our practice.
Following are examples of the types of uses and disclosures of your protected health information that we are permitted to make. These examples are not meant to be exhaustive, but to describe the types of uses and disclosures that may be made by our office.

1. Treatment: We will use and disclose your protected health information to provide, coordinate, or manage your health care and any related services. This includes the coordination or management of your health care with another provider.
For example, we would disclose your protected health information, as necessary, to a home health agency that provides care to you. We will also disclose protected health information to other healthcare providers who may be treating you.
For example, your protected health information may be provided to a physician to whom you have been referred to ensure that the physician has the necessary information to diagnose or treat you. In addition, we may disclose your protected health information from time-to-time to other health care providers (e.g., a specialist or laboratory) who become involved in your care by providing assistance with your health care diagnosis or treatment to us.
2. Payment: We may use and disclose protected health information about you so that the treatment and services you receive at Compleat Rehab may be billed to and payment may be collected from you, an insurance company, or a third party. This may include certain activities that your health insurance plan may undertake before it approves or pays for the health care services we recommend for you such as: making a determination of eligibility or coverage for insurance benefits, and reviewing services provided to you for medical necessity. For example, if you have a back injury, we may need to give your health plan information about your condition, supplies used, and services you received.
3. Healthcare Operations: We may use or disclose, as needed, your protected health information for healthcare operations. These uses and disclosures are necessary to run Compleat Rehab and make sure that all of our patients receive quality care. For example, we ma)'use protected health information to review our treatment and services and to evaluate the performance of our staff in caring for you. We may also combine protected health information about many patients to decide what additional services Compleat Rehab should offer, what services are not needed, and whether certain new treatments are effective. We may also disclose information to doctors, nurses, technicians, medical students, and other personnel for review and learning purposes, we may remove information that identifies you from this set of protected health information so others may use it to study health care and health care delivery without learning the identities of specific patients.
We may share your protected health information with third party "business associates" that perform various activities (for example, billing or transcription services) for our practice. Whenever an arrangement between our practice and a business associate involves the use or disclosure of your protected health information, we will have a written contract that contains terms that will protect the privacy of your protected health information.
We may use and / or disclose protected health information to contact you to, remind you about an appointment you have for treatment or medical care.
We may use or disclose your protected health information, as necessary, to provide you with information about treatment alternatives or other health--related benefits and services that may be of interest to you. You may contact our Privacy Officer to request that these materials not be sent to you.
4. Other Permitted and Required Uses and Disclosures That May Be Made Without Your Authorization or Opportunity to Agree and Object:
We may use or disclose your protected health information in the following situations without your authorization or providing you the opportunity to agree or object. These situations include:
(i) Required by Law: We may use or disclose your protected health information to the extent that the use or disclosure is required by law. The use or disclosure will be made in compliance with the law and will be limited d to the relevant requirements of the law. You will be notified, if required by law, of any such uses or disclosures.

(ii) Public Health: We may disclose your protected health information for public health activities and purposes to a public health authority that is permitted by law to collect or receive the information. For example, a disclosure may be made for the purpose of preventing or controlling disease, injury or disability.

(iii) Communicable Diseases: We may disclose your protected health information, if authorized by law, to a person who may have been exposed to a communicable disease or may otherwise be at risk of contracting or spreading the disease or condition.

(iv) Health Oversight: We may disclose protected health information to a health oversight agency for activities authorized by law, such as audits, investigations, and inspections. Oversight agencies seeking this information include government agencies t-rat oversee the health care system, government benefit programs, other government regulatory programs and civil rights laws.

(v) Abuse or Neglect: We may disclose your protected health information to a public health authority that is authorized by law to receive reports of child abuse or neglect. In addition, we may disclose your protected health information if we believe that you have been a victim of abuse, neglect or domestic violence to the governmental entity or agency authorized to receive such information. In this case, the disclosure will be made consistent with the requirements of applicable federal and state laws.

(vi) Legal Proceedings: We may disclose protected health information in the course of any judicial or administrative proceeding, in response to an order of a court or administrative tribunal (to the extent such disclosure is expressly authorized), or in certain conditions in response to a subpoena, discovery request or other lawful process.

(vii) Law Enforcement: We may also disclose protected health information, so long as applicable legal requirements are met, for law enforcement purposes, these law enforcement purposes include (1) legal processes and otherwise required by law, (2) limited information requests for identification and location purposes, (3) pertaining to victims of a crime, (4) suspicion that death has occurred as a result of criminal conduct, (5) in the event that a crime occurs on the premises of our practice, and (6) medical emergency (not on our premises) and it is likely that a crime has occurred.

(viii) Research: We may disclose your protected health information to researchers when their research has been approved by an institutional review board that has reviewed the research proposal and established protocols to ensure the privacy of your protected health information.

(ix) Criminal Activity: Consistent with applicable federal and state laws, we may disclose your protected health information, if we believe that the use or disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of a person or the public. We may also disclose protected health information if it is necessary for law enforcement authorities to identify or apprehend an individual.

(x) Military Activity and National Security: When the appropriate conditions apply, we may use or disclose protected health information of individuals who are Armed Forces personnel (1) for activities deemed necessary by appropriate military command authorities; (2) for the purpose of a determination by the Department of Veterans Affairs of your eligibility for benefits, or (3) to foreign military authority if you are a member of that foreign military services. We may also disclose your protected health information to authorized federal officials for conducting national security and intelligence activities, including for the provision of protective services to the President or others legally authorized.

(xi) Workers' Compensation: We may disclose your protected health information as authorized to comply with workers' compensation laws and other similar legally established programs.
5. Other Permitted and Required Uses of Disclosures That Require Providing You the Opportunity to Agree or Object
We may use and disclose your protected health information in the following instances. You have the opportunity to agree or object to the use or disclosure of all or part of your protected health information. If you are not present or able to agree or object to the use or disclosure of the protected health information, then we may, using professional judgment, determine whether the disclosure is in your best interest.

Others Involved in Your Health Care or Payment for our Care:

Unless you object, we may disclose to a member of your family, a relative, a close friend or any other person you identify, your protected health information that directly relates to that person's involvement in your health care. If you are unable to agree or object to such a disclosure, we may disclose such information as necessary if we determine that it is in your best interest based on our professional judgment. We may use or disclose protected health information to notify or assist in notifying a family member, personal representative or any other person that is responsible for your care of your location, general condition or death. Finally, we may use or disclose your protected health information to an authorized public or private entity to assist in disaster relief efforts and to coordinate uses and disclosures to family or other individuals involved in your health care.
6. Uses and Disclosures of Protected Health Information Based upon Your Written Authorization Other uses and disclosures of your protected health information will be made only with your written authorization, unless otherwise permitted or required by law as described below. You may revoke this authorization in writing at any time. If you revoke your authorization, we will no longer use or disclose your protected health information for the reasons covered by your written authorization. Please understand that we are unable to take back any disclosures already made with your authorization.
Following is a statement of your rights with respect to your protected health information and a brief description of how you may exercise these rights
1. You have the right to inspect and copy your protected health information
This means you may inspect and obtain a copy of protected health information about you for so long as we maintain the protected health information. You may obtain your medical record that contains medical and billing records and any other records that we use for making decisions about you. As permitted by federal or state law, we may charge you a reasonable copy fee for a copy of your records.
2. You have the right to request a restriction of your protected health information
This means you may ask us not to use or disclose any part of your protected health information for the purposes of treatment, payment or health care operations. You may also request that any part of your protected health information not be disclosed to family members or friends who may be involved in your care or for notification purposes as described in this Notice of Privacy Practices. Your request must state the specific restriction requested and to whom you want the restriction to apply.

We are not required to agree to a restriction that you may request. If we agree to the requested restriction, we may not use or disclose your protected health information in violation of that restriction unless it is needed to provide emergency treatment. With this in mind, please discuss any restriction you wish to request with your health provider.

You may request a restriction by making your request in writing to our Privacy Officer. In your request, you must tell us (1) what information you want to limit; (2) whether you want to limit our use, disclosure, or both; and (3) to whom you want the limits to apply, for example, disclosures to your spouse.
3. You have the right to request to receive confidential communications from us by alternative means or at an alternative location
We will accommodate reasonable requests. We may also condition this accommodation by asking you for information as to how payment will be handled or specification of an alternative address or other method of contact. We will not request an explanation from you as to the basis for the request. Please make this request in writing to our Privacy Officer.
4. Your may have right to amend your protected health information
This means you may request an amendment of protected health information about you in a designated record set for so long as we maintain this information. In certain cases, we may deny your request for an amendment. If we deny your request for amendment, you have the right to file a statement of disagreement with us and we may prepare a rebuttal to your statement and will provide you with a copy of any such rebuttal. Please contact our Privacy Officer if you have questions about amending your medical record.
5. You have the right to receive an accounting of certain disclosures we have made, if any, of your protected health information This right applies to disclosures for purposes other than treatment, payment or health care operations as described in this Notice of Privacy Practices. It excludes disclosures we may have made to you if you authorized us to make the disclosure, to family members or friends involved in your care, or for notification purposes, for national security or intelligence, to law enforcement (as provided in the privacy rule) or correctional facilities, as part of a limited data set disclosure. The right to receive this information is subject to certain exceptions, restrictions and limitations.
6. You have the right to obtain a paper copy of this notice from us
upon request, even if you have agreed to accept this notice electronically.
You may complain to us or to the Secretary of Health and Human Services if you believe your privacy rights have been violated by us. You may file a complaint with us by notifying our Privacy Officer of your complaint. We will not retaliate against you for filing a complaint

You may contact our Privacy Officer at (704) 824-7800 for further information about the complaint process.

This notice was published and becomes effective on August l, 2011.