Today is Valentine’s Day, hearts are aflutter and the card, restaurant, florist and chocolate industry has one of the most important days of the year.
February is also Heart Month as featured by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Here is an excerpt from their website with many good recommendations to keep your heart healthy so that the heartbeat only rises for the right reasons.
“Make Blood Pressure Control Your Goal
This American Heart Month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Million Hearts®–a national effort to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the United States by 2017–are encouraging Americans to know their blood pressure, and if it's high, to make control their goal.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. In fact, more than 67 million Americans have high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are 4 times more likely to die from a stroke and 3 times more likely to die from heart disease, compared to those with normal blood pressure.
High blood pressure often shows no signs or symptoms, which is why having your blood pressure checked regularly is important. It's easy to get your blood pressure checked. You can get screened at your doctor's office and drugstores or even check it yourself at home, using a home blood pressure monitor.
Make Control Your Goal
If you know you have high blood pressure, take these steps to help get it under control:
Ask your doctor what your blood pressure should be. Set a goal to lower your pressure with your doctor and talk about how you can reach your goal. Work with your health care team to make sure you meet that goal. Track your blood pressure over time. One way to do that is with this free wallet card from Million Hearts®.
Take your blood pressure medicine as directed. Set a timer on your phone to remember to take your medicine at the same time each day. If you are having trouble taking your medicines on time or paying for your medicines, or if you are having side effects, ask your doctor for help.
Quit smoking—and if you don't smoke, don't start. You can find tips and resources at CDC's Smoking and Tobacco website.
Reduce sodium intake. Most Americans consume too much sodium, which can raise blood pressure. Read about ways to reduce your sodium and visit the Million Hearts® Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Resource Center for heart-healthy, lower-sodium recipes, meal plans, and helpful articles.”
Check out more information
Here is a direct link to the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/ where you can find out more information about high blood pressure.
How did that happen?
A few more days, and I will be celebrating (?) my 60th birthday. I rather think of it as the 2nd anniversary of my 30th, but that is really cosmetic.
It is certainly time to be grateful. Grateful that I have not been afflicted with one of those diseases that come out of nowhere and profoundly change a person’s life. Grateful for all those years during which I could learn that 90% of all worries never materialize; so I am now making better use of my time. Grateful for the happenstance of my skin color and ethnicity which works like an automatic door opener where others have to push.
Grateful that I changed my career 20 years ago and got into the wellness industry. Without it, I may now be a manager at IBM (well, maybe not), spending hours at my desk, making forecasts of supreme irrelevance to anybody’s well-being, and collecting frequent flyer miles. I would also look at retirement (if it had not already happened) and would be wondering what to do with the rest of my life.
None of those worries for me. Even though I realize that I am quite unemployable as a 60 year old woman (urgh! that sounds awful), I am and will be my own boss. I am in an industry where experience actually counts, and that includes life experience. Being 60 is not a mark against me but a batch of honor.
Happy Birthday to me :-)
I am once more moving away from my fitness field to talk about art which to me is therapeutic and stress-relieving (well, maybe I am talking about wellness after all …..)
I bought a beautiful piece of artwork called ‘Odette in a Dogwood Forest’ by Jaimon Caceres which unites in one piece my love of painting and my love of ballet. It is in a place where I see it often in the course of the day, and every time I pass by it makes me smile and feel happy.
It makes me wonder how colors on paper can have that effect. I am reminded of Magritte’s famous painting “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (this is not a pipe) under the drawing of a pipe. It’s our brain that creates the narrative and fills in the blanks. It’s my brain that places me in a forest where I see an ethereal figure dancing, unaware of being observed. It is also my brain that marvels at the balance of the picture where everything is just in the perfect place. As I stand and look at it, I am receiving the gift of being in the moment. Whenever I look at the drawing, I forget, for that little space of time, what was and what will be.
And then I continue my day – smiling :-)
So, here you are at the dawn of a New Year (I am till in poetic mode after my Shakespeare impersonation). You have decided it’s time to do something about those ……… (fill in the blanks such as extra 20 lbs., cigarettes, sodas) and you are determined to change. You were a little reluctant because those goals seem to repeat themselves year after year. You start off great, and then you fall off.
Setting goals is great but there is a way to increase the odds of you actually achieving them, and here are some tips:
- Write them down and divide them into a long-term (eg. I want to lose 20 lbs. in 6 months) and short-term goals (eg. I want to lose 5 lbs in the first month by walking every day for a total of 20 minutes and decreasing my caloric intake by replacing my afternoon super-size double chocolate thingamajig with a small single chocolate thingamajig).
- Share your goals with others, and if I were you, don’t share them with your significant other as this can cause problems beyond the ones you have already ;-). A personal trainer or wellness coach would be an excellent choice.
- Tape the goals where you can see them every day. You can even write a subset of them on your daily to-do list if you do such a thing to keep them present in your awareness.
- Identify potential barriers and think through strategies how to offset them. For example, where will you walk when it rains so that you cannot go to a park? Is there a mall? Do you have access to a treadmill? Are you getting bored? Have you tried listening to music or a recorded book (my personal favorite)? Do you have a party coming up where thingamajigs will abound?
- Track your progress. After a week or two, review what went right and what was difficult. Adjust your short-term plan as necessary. Rather walking every day for 20 minutes, maybe it’s better for you to walk only 5 times per week for 30 minutes each.
Studies have shown that good goal setting can make or break the deal whether you will reach your goal or not. And you do not have to wait for the New Year’s Day to make a resolution. Changing the way you have done things for a long time requires commitment and vigilance. The old habits have not served you well; they have led you to where you are right now.
So try to be SMART as you set your goals.
Happy New Year!
To make or not to make – that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous portion
Or to take up arms against a sea of gobbles,
And, by opposing, end them.
Oh Shakespeare, please forgive me.
‘Tis this time of year again. And the question in many minds is whether or not to make a New Year’s Resolution. The biggest argument I hear against it that people know that they will not be sticking to it anyway, so why bother making them in the first place.
Well, that’s one way of looking at it. It is always easy to live up to no expectation at all. If you have not set yourself a goal, you cannot fail at it. And who wants to be a failure ……
I have a favorite quote from one of the most remarkable men who ever lived, Michelangelo. He said “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
With the New Year approaching, I’ll leave you to ponder the question of where you want to set your aim.
As a MELT instructor, I talk about hydration a lot. Water is what keeps the connective tissue happy and in good shape. I suggest to everybody to drink a glass of water after a class, and, from all I can see, everybody trots dutifully to the water fountain to get their fill.
With the latest cold spell, I noticed a change. Water bottles are not as common. To be honest, after a long walk with my dog, I feel more like a hot cup of tea than a glass of water.
But that’s the problem: warmer temperatures make us so much more likely to drink water. So we have to be a little more mindful that hydration is just as, if not more important in the colder days.
And it has an added benefit: everybody complains about the effects of heating on mucus membranes and the skin. So let’s get hydrated and improve all of the above.
Prost! To your health!
Last Tuesday, I spent almost 16 hours at a precinct to help my follow citizens exercise their right to vote. I had done this in the past and have always looked at it as fun, though in a rather twisted kind of way.
The last Election Day was almost too much fun.
I was assigned to the help table and in a very busy precinct. As I was assisting voter after voter with little break, it struck me to which degree physical fitness can help to survive such a day.
We were a team of 10, all women. All of us had been to the mandatory training prior to the election and had been at the polling location the evening before to set up the polling place with the voting booths and all the tables and folding chairs. The morning of the election, we were all there before 6 AM to put the finishing touches on the location before the polls opened at 6:30 AM.
A line had already formed outside the precinct, and at the stroke of 6:30 AM the voters streamed into the polling place.
Being sent to the help table means that something is not as it should be, and people are usually not happy about it. At best, it means a delay of a few minutes. There can be a line, and it may take a little while to figure out where the hang-up is in the process. The goal of a precinct worker is to help as accurately as possible, and checklists aplenty are provided to ensure that the processes are fully adhered to. There are so many fields to check and to initial! While each process seems straightforward and easy, the unrelenting stream of voters can cause an oversight. As the day progresses and fatigue sets in, one has to call on all reserves to get through it.
Most voters were very appreciative and gracious, some were impatient, some were suspicious, and some did not have a good understanding of the voting process. Well, and then there were a select few who …… well, how to put this politely, were …… not so very nice ………
When the day was over and I was at home, I took a physical inventory. Quite an interesting picture, and not one that I liked a lot. I got my roller and MELTed and also swung my rapid release device into action. Soon, all was well again.
Quite a big questions to contemplate in a blog of a few paragraphs! Volumes have been written. But I will not be intimidated.
I had a spectacular day yesterday. In the afternoon, I went to see the ballet “Dracula” by the Carolina Ballet, and later in the evening I went to the North Carolina Symphony and had the great joy to listen to a concert that had me at the edge of my seat. I am also looking forward to going to the North Carolina Museum of Art to see the exhibit “Small Treasures” of Dutch and Flemish genre painting.
I am not writing this to brag what kind of a cultured person I am. Other people derive equal pleasure from completely different art forms and can only shudder at the list above.
But it makes me wonder whether our appreciation of art and beauty in the eyes of the beholder is not the very essence of what it means to be human.
I look at my dog who has so many qualities that you hope to find in another person. Unconditional love, loyalty and honesty are things you will find in any dog. And as I interact with Mr. Darcy through the course of the day, I appreciate his understanding of my ways which he has learned to read like a book. Yet for all this, I have never seen him react to a beautiful sunset or a wonderful piece of music in any peculiar way.
If this gift is truly unique to us, then we should treasure it as our very humanity and foster the application and appreciation of art in its many forms.
Today was the Walk for Hope, and I am happy to report that we had the largest team since we first participated in 1996 and raised the most money, about $2000.
The Foundation of Hope raises money for research of mental illnesses. Their support is unique. The foundation gives so-called seed money which enables researchers to do the preliminary work necessary to apply for grants from the CDC for larger studies. That way, a little goes along way, and the Foundation of Hope has, by this method, been responsible for millions of dollars spent on research.
Despite all the progress that has been made, mental illness still bears the stigma of people “just being crazy or making it all up”. People will happily talk about any other ailment as long as somebody is willing to listen, yet mental health is under an embargo.
Yet, just about all of us know a person suffering from mental illness. It can be difficult to deal with a person thus afflicted. We often lack the right words in the face of physical disability, and mental illness leaves us even more befuddled as to what to do or what to say. So we look away and pretend not to see. Understandable? Yes. But should we not approach this with as much compassion as we have towards those who suffer from a physical illness?
It’s worth a try.
Whenever I am coming back from the IDEA World Fitness Convention, I bring something back. I always come back with new ideas and great information. More often than not, it is also something to touch and feel from a small relatively inexpensive gadget to something much larger and much more expensive. This year I was able to combine the two virtues: small AND expensive. But what a thing we got!
At this time already nicknamed the ‘Magic Machine’ it is a tool from Rapid Release Technology. This thing is about the size of a hand-held kitchen mixer and provides a very specific rate and depth of vibration which breaks up scar tissue and adhesions and has a wonderfully relaxing effect when applied to sore necks and shoulders. If you want to find out more, you can go to their website www.rapidreleastech.com.
I am usually suspicious when something seems too good to be true, and before I part with a large amount of money, I need to be convinced that this is legit. When I roamed the expo hall, the people manning the booth hailed me over and asked whether I had a place on my body that hurts. As a matter of fact, I had. There was a place in my neck that had resisted the combined effort of MELT, my rolfer and my chiropractor (even though it had gotten better through all of the above). Within 5 minutes, this spot felt A LOT better. I went back to the booth a few hours later for another dose and then got out my credit card. Had to have it!
It’s been in constant use at the studio ever since we had it. With regular application, this thing can perform minor (and, in my case, major) miracles. It is a bit on the noisy side which makes it even more surprising that there is another person in the studio who gets a daily dose of vibration: Mr. Darcy, my beloved dog.