Women Heart Disease

Did you know that more than twice as
many women die from heart-related
medical issues than from all forms
of cancer combined?...

read more

Rejuvenate Your Face

If looking in the mirror has been
leaving you feeling less than
the "fairest of them all,"
maybe it is time to consider...

read more

Protect Your Shoulders

Technology is fabulous - but
there are downsides to technology,
the damage our devices can
do to our shoulders...

read more

Taking Back Control

With major life changes come
many challenges - some good
and some not so good. Whether
you are dealing with...

read more

Baby Steps

The last few weeks of pregnancy
can feel like some of the longest
weeks in a woman's life.
your belly is big, everything...

read more

Surprising Facts about Heart Disease in Women

Did you know that more than twice as many women die from heart-related medical issues than from all forms of cancer combined? In addition, a woman is more than ten times as likely to die from a heart attack as she is from breast cancer. And an astonishing 40% of women do not survive their first heart attack. As women, we know that a lot of things in our lives are different than they are for men. Included among those differences? Our hearts and how they react when we are suffering from heart disease.

As healthcare providers learn more about the unique challenges present in the diagnosis and treatment of women with heart disease, Dignity Health Heart & Vascular Institute is encouraging women to pay attention to risk factors specific to women and to discuss their own risk factors with their physician. Knowing if you have an increased risk for heart disease may help you and your doctor recognize the symptoms of heart disease in the early stages.

An amazing - and disturbing - 64% of women who die suddenly from heart disease had no prior symptoms. Because of this, it is of critical importance that women and their physicians pay careful attention to warning signs that may be present long before heart disease is apparent.

Surprisingly, when determining if you are at risk for heart disease, you should look at your pregnancy history. In particular, women are urged to discuss any pregnancy complications they experienced with their physicians - even if that pregnancy was 10, 20, even 30 years ago.

The 2011 American Heart Association update on prevention guidelines for women added new risk factors for heart disease and indicated that a pregnancy complication, including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or hypertension, could be considered the same as a failed stress test.

If you experience (or previously experienced) any of these risk factors, it is imperative that you talk to your doctor and discuss your heart disease risk:

  • Preeclampsia, gestational diabetes
  • Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • High BMI
  • Family history of heart or vascular disease
  • Blood pressure greater than 120/80
  • Abnormal lipids

If just one or more of the above risk factors applies to you, you are considered "at risk" for cardiovascular disease and should seek a referral to a cardiologist who can help you determine ways to improve your heart health and prevent heart disease from developing.

In addition to a difference in risk factors, women also experience the symptoms of heart disease differently than men. It is critical for all women to know and recognize what a heart attack looks like for women.

The common symptoms, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, are found in both genders - but there is a broader range spectrum of symptoms in women. These can include:

  • Pain in the middle or upper back
  • Pain in the jaw
  • Loss of appetite
  • A cold sweat
  • Weakness
  • Coughing
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Extreme fatigue

The absence of chest pain can cause treatment delay and misdiagnosis - which obviously can be life-threatening.

For yourself and for the women you love in your life, know the risk factors for heart disease and know the symptoms of heart disease for women.

To learn more about your heart health and your risk factors, schedule a comprehensive Dignity Health Heart & Vascular Institute heart health screening (no referral needed) by calling 916.733.6425.

And to learn more about you can lead a heart healthier life, make plans to attend Dignity Health's Day of Dance on March 16 at Sacred Heart Parish School in Sacramento. This fun, interactive day is a great way to see firsthand how being active and educated can improve your heart health. Put it on your calendar and bring some friends! To learn more and to register, click here.

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Taking Back Control during Times of Change

With major life changes come many challenges - some good and some not so good. Whether you are dealing with an empty nest or a relocation or retirement, what can seem like an exciting opportunity at first can also lead to feelings of fear, frustration or sadness. So how do you handle these ups and downs? The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) offers some great suggestions.

First, do whatever you can to maintain a positive attitude. A study published in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, found that happy people are healthier and live longer than their unhappy counterparts. A small step towards happiness - which you can test out anywhere, anytime - is to seek out laughter in your life. Whether it is through enjoying amusing activities with friends, finding funny literature, movies or television shows, or just letting your inner comedian come through occasionally, laughter really can be the best medicine.

And while you are seeking out laughter, you may find yourself increasingly surrounded by friends with positive attitudes. The people who enjoy a good laugh are typically the same ones who give off a feeling of happiness and joy. Seek out these people, particularly if you are in a new location or a new stage in your life. Positive, social friends can help you get over the hurdle you are currently facing.

Another type of companion that can help is a canine or feline friend. A small dog or friendly cat can provide companionship and purpose as you navigate a new life stage. Having to walk a dog or care for a cat can give your life structure and the love that pet owners feel from their animal can be relaxing and comforting. Also, if you adopt from a pet shelter you are doing a good thing for your community!

Whether you have a dog to walk or not, it is also a great idea to seek out nature. A walk outdoors - whether you live in the country or a more urban setting - can offer relaxation as well as exercise, two things that go a long way toward helping you through challenging times. If you are in a new life stage, consider making outdoor exercise part of your new daily plan.

Speaking of your new daily plan - make one! Having a plan and a routine (even one that is very flexible and often adjusted) can provide comfort and familiarity when you are in the midst of change. Incorporate healthy habits into your new plan while still being open to the opportunities your new stage is putting before you... Focus on the positive and that invigorated, excited feeling will return in no time!

To learn more about upcoming health and lifestyle events geared toward women, or to find a Dignity Health doctor near you, please visit our Women's Health Events.

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Rejuvenate Your Face

By Jeffrey Sweat, MD

Is the bright-eyed, fresh-skinned face of your youth a distant memory? Is your face more "dull and dry" than "silky and smooth"? If looking in the mirror has been leaving you feeling less than the "fairest of them all," maybe it is time to consider a cosmetic or facial rejuvenation service. There is a wide variety of procedures and treatments available that are easier and more affordable than ever.

From Botox and Juvederm, to laser resurfacing and chemical peels, there is a treatment for everyone, regardless of your age and skin condition. If the options are overwhelming to you, here is a primer on some of the services that are available to help rejuvenate your face.


Between the stress of career, marriage, parenthood and life in general, it is no wonder that our face often bears the mark of all that worry and concentration. With the years often come wrinkles, crow's feet and laugh lines. You can visibly improve those wrinkles with Botox? treatment. Botox injection treatments relax the muscles that cause wrinkles and lines, giving you smoother skin for up to three months.

Botox can be used to improve worry lines on your forehead; lines between your eyebrows; crow's feet, wrinkles and laugh lines. During Botox treatment, a licensed clinician will administer small injections directly into the areas of your face you'd like to improve. If you have concerns about pain or sensitivity, an ice pack or anesthetic cream can be applied to the area after treatment. Botox injections can work quickly and lead to visible improvements in the first month.

Dermal Fillers

With age and sun exposure, your collagen levels diminish which can make you look older and more tired than you actually area. Dermal fillers can be a great way to fight these natural effects of aging.

Dermal fillers involve a quick procedure that improves fine lines, wrinkles and signs of aging on the face - they are especially effective at improving the "parentheses" around your mouth. They are injected just beneath the skin and can instantly improve facial wrinkles and fine lines or plump the lips. Among the brands of dermal fillers are Juvederm®XC, Juvederm Ultra Plus XC, Restylane, Radiesse and Sculptra®. "

Juvaderm is a colorless gel that temporarily adds volume to the skin and restores a smoother appearance. One treatment can last up to 12 months. Sculptra is a new type of filler which replaces lost collagen. It can help correct deep facial wrinkles due to volume loss and a full treatment (three injections over a few months) can last up to two years.

Laser Resurfacing

If you yearn for a vibrant glow but are instead faced with dull, acne-spotted, wrinkled skin, laser resurfacing may be for you. This new technology uses short, concentrated pulsating beams of light to reduce wrinkles, scars and blemishes. This target approach allows the damaged skin to be removed in a precise manner, one layer at a time.

Mercy Medical Group offers several types of laser resurfacing among them: pulsed light treatment and fractional laser treatment, and the ablative resurfacing pulsed light systems uses specialized hand pieces that filter light, allowing treatment to be focused on the areas of need. The process also uses various cooling methods to keep the light pulses mild and safe. Pulsed light treatment can be used for skin resurfacing and tightening; hair removal; photofacials and acne treatment. The fractional laser penetrates the skin more deeply. Fractional laser treatments include skin resurfacing and tightening; photofacials; acne treatment; and treatment of surgical scars.

Skin Care Services

If your skin has fallen victim to sun damage, scarring, age spots, or freckles, a cosmetic chemical peel can help erase some of the damage. Chemical peels may be used to treat age spots; discoloration; fine lines; dull complexion; freckles; and rough, leathery skin. During a peel, your external layer of dead skin cells is removed and a specially-chosen chemical solution is applied to improve the texture and tone of your skin. A wide range of facials, waxing and makeup application services are available as well.

Whatever skin issues you would like to address, the team at Mercy Medical Group can help you select the best treatment option for you. To schedule a consultation with one of our board certified physicians, call 916.536.2400.

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Making it to Your Due Date

The last few weeks of pregnancy can feel like some of the longest weeks in a woman's life. Your belly is big, everything is swollen, eating and even breathing can be uncomfortable - and you can't leave the house without someone making a comment about your size. But don't stress - it is in fact possible to make it to baby's birthday without losing your mind.

For starters, talk to your doctor. Let him or her know how uncomfortable you are. Chances are, your feelings are natural and he or she may be able to put your mind at ease and recommend things you can do to be more comfortable. It may also be comforting to talk about just how far past your due date your doctor will let you go before you are induced. Having a definite end date can make the days more bearable!

You can also take advantage of this time to get ready for your baby. Wash and fold the clothes and find just the right spot for them... Purchase the diapers, the wipes, the carseat - all the things you absolutely must have before your bundle arrives. Talk to your doctor about what hospital you will deliver at and discuss your benefits with your insurance company. Being prepared for the birth can help put your mind at ease, which will help the time pass smoothly.

One word of caution, however - do not make yourself so busy that you are exhausted! Your body is very strained in the last month of pregnancy and needs lots of rest. Go to bed early, take a nap (or two!) every day, and be sure to sit down and put your feet up several times a day. Just as important as sleep is nutrition - feed yourself and your baby well! Focus on lean protein and fruits and veggies and drink a lot of water. Hydration will keep the swelling down - at least a little!

While you're resting, why not try some mediation techniques? Find a quiet place and play some relaxing music - or just sit and close your eyes and enjoy the silence. Visualize your labor and seeing your baby. This meditation can help prepare you for childbirth.

Speaking of childbirth, consider trying some natural labor inducers (with your doctor's permission, of course!). Take lots of long walks. Try eating alleged labor-inducing foods like pineapple, eggplant or spicy foods (if you're belly is up for it).

One last piece of advice - consider taking this time to do something nice for yourself, like a pedicure or an afternoon at a movie or lunch with a friend. Your personal time will be very limited after baby arrives so consider the days and weeks before delivery an early "thank you" present from your little one. Take advantage of this time and treat yourself!

To learn more about getting ready for pregnancy and your baby, make plans to attend Baby Steps, an upcoming event hosted by Dignity Health aimed helping you prepare for your little. To register, visit our Baby Steps Event page.

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Protect Your Shoulders from Technology

Technology is fabulous - it can make our everyday lives run smoother, more efficiently, and bring a little fun and levity along the way as well. But there are downsides to technology - among them, the damage our devices can do to our shoulders, neck and back. But don't put away your iPad or laptop just yet - with some simple changes recommended by the Harvard Health Letter (October 2012) to your posture and work habits, you can enjoy the many benefits of technology without the annoying "pain in the neck."

If you are a tablet user, do not place your tablet computer on your lap. That forces your neck to bend forward causing a strain on the neck muscles that can injure muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments or even spinal discs. If you feel a twinge between your shoulder blades while using your tablet, then chances are that you are viewing it in an awkward and potentially dangerous way. Always place your tablet on a table, propped at an angle to allow your eyes and neck to be in a natural position while viewing it. There are many cases available today that provide the appropriate angle with a simple flip of the cover. Invest in one and save your neck and shoulders!

If you do a lot of work on a laptop computer, consider using an external keyboard. By using an external keyboard, you can ensure that your hands and arms are where they need to be, while also elevating the laptop screen to ensure that your eyes and neck are positioned correctly. This will allow you to get the right angle between your screen and your body. While you are working, always keep your shoulders relaxed (if you feel them creeping up by your ears, push them back into their "pockets") and elbows close to your body. Your hands, wrists, forearms and thighs should be parallel to the floor.

Another important recommendation is to take a break and change your position every 15 minutes. This is true whether you are a tablet user or working on a computer. Get up out of your chair or simply back away from your screen and focus on something else for a minute. Give your shoulders a little stretch and realign your back before settling back in for more work. This type of break is not only good for your shoulders, hands, back and neck, but it also provides much needed relief to your eyes.

Most importantly, do not use your technology mindlessly. Be aware of your body and how you are position. Do not allow your body to tense up, no matter how stressful the email you are reading is. And listen if you feel your body telling you that it is not comfortable. With these precautions, you should be able to enjoy the many benefits of technology without doing damage that can be difficult to repair.

For more information about shoulder, hand and arm health or to register, visit our Orthopedic Event page.

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