Monday, August 26, 2013

What Cruise Ships Could Do for Heart Survivors

Going for a trip on a cruise ship is a very enjoyable way to travel. You get to see other countries, meet interesting people and generally leave the driving to others. However, for heart survivors there are many possible dangers in the dining room.

For anyone who hasn’t cruised yet, the dining can be one of the best things. For dinner, you have assigned or open seating in an attractive dining room and great food, wine and service. Although your meals are included in your ticket costs, there are also several specialty restaurants, at a modest extra cost, for your dining pleasures. You need reservations for these restaurants and you should make these reservations early in your cruise. For your other meals, there is buffet eating and the food is good there too but it isn't fine dining. You can also choose to eat your dinner in the buffet area, although I don't know why you would want to pass up the elegance of the dining room. And, you have your choice of early or late seating.

Gourmet dining shouldn't put you at risk.

If you have any kind of dietary restrictions, your travel instructions tell you to let your travel agent know of your needs and they will pass them along to the cruise company. You think that these instructions will be passed onto the crew members on your cruise. THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN. When you get to the cruise, and you inquire about your needs, you are told to find the head waiter for your time of seating and tell him your needs. That by itself isn't easy as there are several head waiters, as the dining room is large and on, at least, two levels of the ship. And these people aren't in the dining room until the first seating as they are working elsewhere on the ship.

So, you really don't make any progress until you arrive for dinner. You then tell your head waiter and he tells you to tell your waiter. Eventually, you do that and he then have to figure out what to do. He brings you a menu which describes the meals for that night. Indicated there are meals that are for diabetics, gluten-free, and low sodium. And low sodium isn't good enough for heat disease. You need no sodium meals ! One of the reasons for this is that the American guidelines for sodium are generous and, as a result, you need no sodium meals so that you can control your daily intake with other meals. If you enter anything ashore, it likely will not be low sodium so you need the extra margin. 


With the help of your waiter, you try to 'guess' at dishes that will be safe for heart patients. 

For the following nights, you get to look at the menu one day early and make your selection then. This gives the kitchen time to prepare your special meals but your only guidance is still from your waiter.

Living or dying shouldn't be left to a waiter

Often, English isn't the first language of your waiter and yet your health is in their hands. The system is flawed and your life could depend on this system. And yet, the cruise lines could do much better.

Seniors have money to travel & need special diets

One group of cruisers that needs help in this area is the seniors. They have the money to cruise and the low-impact life style is ideal for their desires. And, they have more health issues and heart disease than any other group. Why wouldn’t the cruise lines recognize that they are missing a great opportunity to serve this group. Seems to be bad business planning to me.

Cruise ships need nutritionists on staff

So, what are some of the things that the cruise lines should do ? Well, one of the first things would be to add nutritionists to the food planning in headquarters and then have nutritionist on every ship to serve their public. At HQ, they could work with the food planning department to select proper meal choices for all passengers, especially those with special needs. And on the ships, they could ensure the quality of the meal choices and they could be available to advise 'special needs' passengers on what they choices are and should be.

Seat people with heart issues in the same section

One idea to make the system work better would be to seat all passengers with special dietary needs in the same section. This would make it easier to serve their needs and to have knowledgeable serving. staff.

Buffet doesn't have many choices

One of the comments from the cruise lines is for special needs passengers to eat their dinners in the buffet areas. This isn't a good suggestion because these people paid the same amounts as other passengers and should be treated accordingly and there aren't enough choices for them from the buffet. One of the few things in the buffet that is safe is the 'make your own salad' bar. Most of the meat and fish dishes are covered with sauces of questionable sodium content. And the fries, burgers, pasta, breads, potatoes, donuts, etc. all have too much sodium and are high in cholesterol.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Which One is Better for Your Heart ?

In water softeners, sodium chloride is the most-used salt form. It is the cheapest and has been used effectively for many years. However, it is not recommended for anyone with heart disease. This is because it introduces too much sodium to your body.

There is an alternative called potassium chloride. It is more expensive but it lasts longer because you don't have to use as much. When you make the switch, you will have to adjust your water softener for potassium chloride. You may be on the do this yourself using your manual or you may have to call a plumber to make those adjustments.

It surprised me when, following my heart events, I needed to make this change and yet I couldn't really find anything in the medical literature to recommend it. It was another case of having to be your own advocate.

Sodium chloride is a naturally-occurring mineral found in the earth and comes from underground salt mines or solar evaporation ponds. It’s the most commonly used salt in water softener brine tanks. When the brine solution containing sodium chloride washes over the resin, the hard mineral ions in the water are replaced with sodium. Sodium chloride brands are commonly available in a variety of forms including blocks, crystals, pellets and cubes. Beside the fact that it’s widely available, sodium chloride often is the preferred softener salt because of the comparatively lower price.

Potassium chloride also is a naturally-occurring mineral and is used primarily in agriculture. It works in softeners the same way sodium chloride does but replaces the hard water minerals with potassium instead of sodium. Potassium chloride is an essential nutrient for human health and plays an important role in the functioning of organs, nerves and muscles. It can be found in a wide variety of foods such as dairy products, meat, fruits and vegetables. In addition, potassium chloride is important to the healthy growth of plant life. Because extracting potassium chloride from the earth is more costly than mining sodium chloride, potassium chloride is more expensive.

If you are on a sodium-restricted diets (and all people with heart disease are) potassium chloride should be your choice. Potassium chloride also may be the choice for those who are health conscious or concerned about the environment.

Salt substitutes use potassium chloride. People with kidney disorders should avoid using salt substitutes because a dangerous build-up of potassium in your blood can be harmful to your health.

There are benefits to using potassium chloride:
  • It is more environmentally friendly.
  • It provides a fuller soap lather and cleaner, brighter, fluffier laundry.
  • The backwash can be captured and used to water lawns and gardens. because potassium is a nutrient.
  • It does not contain sodium.
One thought is that residual amounts of either one will be left in the water after the exchange process.

There have also been studies that show we could use more potassium in our diets, helping to lower the risk of stroke and high blood pressure.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Saving Time Can Save Your Heart Life

For about fifteen years, I was a volunteer firefighter and EMT.  When we responded to a medical call, it was not unusual for us to transport the patient to the appropriate hospital for further care.  This could be for a variety of causes, but many of these calls were for an apparent heart attack.

One of the things that we always did, if time permitted and we were at the patient's home, was to gather the medications that the patient was currently taking and take them with the patient so that the emergency doctors would have a more complete picture.  Some patients had these ready for us; for some others, we never found what they had taken that day.

There is a system which we now often see called "Vial of Life".  This consists of a magnetic sticker to place on your fridge and instructions to have you prepare a list of your meds and place that list in your fridge.  The EMTs know to look on your fridge, and if there is a sticker there, to look in your fridge.

You can use this or a similar system yourself and make it even better.  Here's how to do that:

1.    Take one of your empty pill bottles and put one pill, from that prescription, in that bottle.
2.    Do the same for all of your medications.
3.    Put all of the pill bottles, with at least one pill in each in a ZipLock Bag.
4.    Put your medication schedule in the same Bag.
5.    Put that Bag in a place where the EMTs can quickly find it. Your fridge is a good, common place that they can find quickly.
6.    Put a sticker on the outside of your fridge telling the EMTs that your meds are in the fridge.

It is so important for you, when you get taken to the emergency room (with your next heart attack), that they quickly know as much about you as they can.  This includes your medications. With this bag of your meds (and other information), it will dramatically reduce the time for them to know what to do to save your life.

The other thing you should add is the reference to your Road ID ( ).  

See our previous post for more information on the Road ID.