On the Clock With Vernon Cail

Meet Vernon Cail, a research assistant with the Department of Preventive Medicine at Rush University Medical Center. He’s working on two studies, one involving childhood obesity and another examining food purchasing patterns in the Chicago area.

“We wanted to see what type of home environmental factors influence obesity,” he says, “so to do that we have to travel to the house to observe it, analyze it and assess the conditions.”

Cail visits homes throughout the Chicago area to meet with study participants, and while the traffic is trying at times, the interactions with participants make it all worthwhile.

“I really enjoy the relationships that I build with the families,” he says. “I enjoy spending time with people who share interests of mine: that’s to get healthy, to get kids healthy, hopefully get their household healthy.”

Eat Well: Broiled Tilapia With Pineapple Relish

This is the first in a series of healthy recipes from Jennifer Ventrelle, MS, RD, CPT, director of lifestyle programs for the Rush University Prevention Center.

Tilapia is a low-fat, low-carb and low-sodium quality protein source. It is also an excellent source of potassium, B-vitamins such as B12 and niacin, and the antioxidant selenium. And the pineapple relish in this recipe is a great way to bring refreshing variety to an otherwise boring fish filet. The tilapia can be replaced with another type of lean protein such as chicken or pork tenderloin if you are not fond of fish.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 (4-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 1 ¼ cups pineapple tidbits canned in natural juice
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ¼ cup chopped plum tomato
  • 1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 lime wedges

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Avoiding Winter Heart Attacks

By Philip R. Liebson, MD

The snow is falling. The winter winds are raging, you are over 50 years of age and you have to shovel the driveway. You may be aware that heart attacks are increased in winter, almost twice the rate as at other seasons. Why and how can you protect yourself?

The reason for the increase in heart attacks involves the cold weather primarily, although snow shoveling helps. Cold weather causes the arteries to constrict, increasing the work of the heart by raising the blood pressure. When the arteries have arteriosclerotic plaque, this decreases blood flow even more. Also, cold causes the heart rate to increase, making the work of the heart even greater. Finally, lifting snow with your shovel is an isometric exercise adding to the work of the heart by an increase in blood pressure.

If you want to shovel snow early in the morning, beware! This is the time of day when heart attacks are greatest, because of the surge of adrenaline that occurs around the time of awakening. With the decreased daylight hours there is also a tendency for depressed mood which can also affect the function of the heart.

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How to Determine Your Target Heart Rate

By Jennifer Ventrelle

We all know “that guy” or “that girl” at the gym — the one you see running as fast as he can on the treadmill, gripping the machine for dear life, probably thinking, “The faster I run, the more calories I will burn, the more weight I will lose! Yes, we’ve all seen that guy. Perhaps we’ve passed him by, thinking that he’s crazy. Perhaps we’ve been on the treadmill next to him secretly trying keep up, or perhaps we have even been that guy.

Then there are the things “they” say. Well, you know, they say it’s all about “calories in, calories out.” They say the harder you work, the more calories you burn. They say you should slow down to hit your target heart rate for best results. Who are “they” anyway?

Let’s clear up some confusion about where your heart rate should be while exercising. The term target heart rate (THR) refers to the ideal intensity level at which your heart is being exercised, but not overworked. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends performing physical activity at a range between 65-85 percent of maximum heart rate (MHR) three to five times per week for 20 to 60 minutes at a time. Your MHR is the fastest rate at which your heart is able to beat in one minute. The simplest formula for estimating your MHR is to subtract your age from 220 (e.g., 220-40 years = 180 beats per minute). You should not go over this number for more than one minute, and theoretically, you should not be able to sustain this without passing out even if you tried (I do not recommend trying). Individuals who engage in intensive endurance training or high-performance athletes may benefit from working above the THR range. These individuals should consult an exercise specialist for guidance. Continue reading

Saying Goodbye to Cigarettes

The Rush University Prevention Center offers a comprehensive Smoking Cessation Program, which starts Oct. 4. Call (312) 942-3227 to register. A free informational session will be held at noon on Sept. 21. Learn more

By Karen Clayton

I loved smoking. I loved the smell of the box of cigarettes in my purse. I loved lighting cigarettes. I loved holding cigarettes. I loved the assumed friendships you’d make with other smokers as we huddled outside restaurants during Chicago winters and complained about being “second-class citizens.” I did not want to quit for all these reasons and many more.

I quit smoking just more than one year ago: November 1, 2009. It’s an important day for me. I remember my last cigarette very clearly. I was driving back from spending Halloween with friends in Iowa. I lit the cigarette, took a few puffs and then tossed it out the window and thought, “I’m done.” I had spent the night before smoking outside in the cold alone and making peace with the idea of being done.

I wanted to quit because I did not love the smell of smoke on my coat or in my car. I did not love being sick all winter. I did not love the idea of being an adult who smoked. I did not love the fact that something was stronger than me.

Many attempts to quit smoking during the course of my life had been made. I tried in college. I tried after college. I tried using medications. I tried cutting back and being a “social smoker.” When Rush went smoke-free in 2008, I tried the free classes it had for employees. Each attempt would be initially successful but I always got in my own way. Continue reading