Tag Archives: heart health

Heart Health, WEB

Boost heart health with stress management

Dr. Ann-Marie Feyrer-Melk of Optimal Heart Attack & Stroke Prevention Center in Scottsdale

Dr. Anne-Marie Feyrer-Melk of Optimal Heart Attack & Stroke Prevention Center in Scottsdale

By Dr. Anne-Marie Feyrer-Melk

In today’s fast-paced world, stress is somewhat unavoidable. While we know that excessive stress isn’t good for us, just how bad is stress for our overall health? Stress can cause minor symptoms such as headaches, insomnia and stomach pain, but when left unchecked, stress can take a major toll on our bodies – causing high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes, even death.

Stress can be defined as any type of change producing physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Acute Stress can be positive, like skiing down a slope, or negative, like dealing with road rage. Chronic Stress is the type of stress that seems never-ending and inescapable, like the stress of a bad marriage or extremely taxing job.

Stress can trigger the body’s Fight-or-Flight response. Here, certain hormones like adrenalin and cortisol are released, speeding the heart rate, slowing digestion, shunting blood flow to major muscle groups, hence giving the body a burst of energy and strength. It can become activated in situations where a Fight-or- Flight response from an evolutionary sense is no longer appropriate, like in traffic or during a stressful day at work. When the perceived threat is gone, systems are designed to return o normal via the relaxation response. However, in times of chronic stress, the relaxation response doesn’t’ happen enough, and the autonomic nervous system becomes chronically over activated.

Then, when faced with chronic stress, people begin to see physical symptoms. The fist symptoms are relatively mild, like chronic headaches and increased susceptibility to colds. With ongoing exposure to chronic stress, however, more serious health problems may develop. This stress-induced condition can include: depression, hair loss, heart disease, obesity, anxiety disorder, sexual dysfunction, tooth and gum disease, ulcers, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and sleep disorders. In fact, it has been estimated that as many as 90 percent of doctor visits are for symptoms at least partially stress-related.

To keep chronic stress from damaging your health, it is important to be sure that your body does not experience excessive states of this physiological arousal.

First, acknowledge that some acute stress is unavoidable, but much of chronic stress that damages our health can be avoided or minimized with the use of organization techniques, time management, relationship skills, and other health lifestyle choices. Then, certain techniques can be employed to activate the body’s relaxation response to place the body into a calm state. These include mediation, yoga, deep breathing exercise, journaling, and positive imagery. These techniques can be learned and practiced when under stress, helping you to feel better relatively quickly.

Sometimes, stress becomes so great that people require the use of medications, herbal treatments, or the aid of a professional. Whatever your situation, stress need not damage your health. If you learn to handle your stress now, you can be on the road to a healthier, happier life.

Dr. Anne-Marie Feyrer-Melk has been practicing cardiology in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area since 1997. Dr. Feyrer-Melk’s concierge cardiology practice provides the most advanced diagnostics and therapies in heart attack and stroke prevention available today. She is the first and only cardiologist in the Valley to design a program to provide screenings, specialized technologies and the research time necessary to comprehensively evaluate heart and blood vessel health, and identify and assess cardiac risks before tragedy strikes.

Sex, Intimacy and Illness

Let’s Talk About Sex, Intimacy … And Illness

For those fighting a serious illness, maintaining a healthy sex life and keeping intimacy alive can be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. During this time of the year, here’s some advice on how to overcome these obstacles and keep your hearts and your relationships healthy.

It’s February – and everyone is seeing red.

Not only are we in “Valentine Month,” but each February we also observe American Heart Month.

Both observances, however, can be quite hard for those in our lives fighting a serious illness. A key reason is intimacy, which affects our hearts — and our heart health — in a myriad of ways.

And, unfortunately, sex, sexuality and intimacy are among the most overlooked topics among patients of either gender while fighting disease such as cancer or diabetes — and all are very different but necessary conversations to have with loved ones and medical professionals. Below, we will take a look at each aspect and offer recommendations on how to deal with matters of the heart if either are fighting illness — or loving someone — who is.


Serious diseases such as cancer and diabetes can make the physical act of having sex difficult or impossible. This is especially true among those fighting a disease that is focused in or near a sex organ such as ovarian, testicular and gynological cancers. Simply put, some diseases make the act of intercourse impossible.

Diabetes can impact both sexes in a similar way, sometimes restricting blood flow to the point of erectile dysfunction or loss of vaginal lubrication.

And, oftentimes breast cancer patients lose a great deal of sensation in their chests, a pleasure center for many women, making the act of sex less appealing or less satisfying.

So, does a couple’s sex life simply end while one is fighting disease?

Absolutely not!

The key during this sensitive time is understanding and communication.

The patient must make the effort to communicate their loss of libido or ability to maintain arousal, while the partner must communicate their continued desire for the person has not waned during illness. Then, both partners must understand that sex as they both know it will need to change, at least temporarily.

Some suggestions:

  • Invest in a good lubricant
  • Go through the motions a few times
  • Try alternative techniques such as oral or digital stimulation

Even if sex is less pleasurable during an illness, every so often it is worth biting the bullet and going through the motions if you can. The result: you and your partner not just satisfied, but successful in maintaining emotional and physical intimacy during one of the hardest times in your lives.


Certainly, the physical act of sex can be hard enough during illness. But, oftentimes it is truly our desire to have sex that wanes, often due to our complete loss of sexuality from weight gain, scaring, hormones, et al.

During a cancer battle, for example, emotions are running high — and our perception of ourselves often starts to run dangerously low.

While in the acute phase, some of the most common side-effects that drain sexuality are:

  • Weight gain or loss
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Altered sex organs
  • Altered sense of self

Sadly, there is no magic mojo pill to help. But, there are support systems ready and waiting to talk both the patient and the partner, who can also lose his/her sense of sexuality while tending to patient needs and becoming the primary caregiving the household.

While the patient’s doctor should have a handy list of recommendations, the Wellness Community has some fabulous resources in a group setting. And, one-on-one and/or couples counseling can be critical at this time.


From kissing to the sharing inside jokes or fears, intimacy is at the core of all relationships in our lives. It includes all of the physicality of sex and all of the emotions of sexuality — and then some.

The loss of this crucial element in a relationship often means the eventual loss of the relationship itself.

But, keeping intimacy alive during illness is hardly a walk in the park. It means that the patient has to share their fears about the future and health rather than going through the motions of everyday life. It also means that the partner must share frustrations and fears as well. It means sweating the small stuff together — often.

Loved ones deserve to be a part of the process of disease — the good, the bad and the ugly.

For more information about how you and your loved one can maintain a healthy sex life and keep the intimacy alive, please visit canceraz.com.