Living Heart-Healthy

It’s February, my friends! Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. And retailers are stocked with an array of gifts. Couples are making plans for a special evening. Or, maybe, an indulging get-away? Singles are contemplating their next move. And florists, God bless them, are getting ready to work over-time. Romance is definitely in the air — melting this polar vortex. Some enjoy this time of year. Others loathe it. Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. Amid the excitement, many of us seem to forget that the heart is more than emotions. It’s about sustaining life. So, for a moment, put down that fancy box of truffles and think. Are you and your loved one living “Heart-Healthy”

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No matter your age, diet and exercise are two key components of living Heart-Healthy. If you (or your loved one) need to lose some weight, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is a great way to start! Watching your salt intake is also important. If you are already living with heart disease, then you probably know how crucial these things are to your health and well-being. It’s vital to make changes that will strengthen your heart. 

This isn’t difficult. Start with a commonsense approach. When you eat, at home or in a restaurant, use portion control. An average serving of meat, fish or chicken is 2-3 ounces.  So, skip that 16-ounce T-bone on the menu and order the 6-ounce filet instead. It’s a little more than average, but not excessive. Eat more fruit and vegetables. Try whole-grains like oats, corn, barley, cracked wheat or quinoa. I highly recommend the latter — WOW! Limit your fats. And, occasionally, treat yourself to something special, i.e. a candy bar, a slice of cheesecake, ice cream, etc. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, with your results!

Exercise, like eating, can be done with a simple commonsense approach. Walking is an easy way to get started. It doesn’t require equipment, or a gym membership — just a comfortable pair of shoes. It also provides couples with an activity that they can share as well. A 30-minute walk takes little time, or effort. But the benefits, physically and emotionally, are endless. If you would prefer something else, talk to your doctor. He or she can discuss exercise options that are safe and effective. Reducing sedentary living is your goal. You can do this!

Let’s be honest. We all have bad habits, in some form. But there are simple ways to overcome these behaviors:

  • Identify Cues. What triggers your bad habit?
  • Disrupt. Once you recognize these cues, you can help throw them off-track!
  • Replace with a good behavior. The new behavior, i.e. a piece of fruit instead of cookies, will prevent your brain from going into auto-pilot.
  • Keep it simple. It will be easier to make the change/s.
  • Think long-term. Remember why you are doing this — a healthier you!
  • Be persistent. Soon your changes will feel like the norm.

Whether Cupid has taken aim at you or not, feel the love this month. Think beyond Valentine’s — beyond February. Love yourself. Think of ways to take care of your health. Make the changes. Positive behaviors will lead to a happier you. A healthier you. And if your loved one will join in … well, that’s the real heart of the matter. So, talk about it. Invest in your future. Take the Heart-Healthy journey, together. You’ll be glad that you did!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-healthy-diet/art-20047702

https://wholegrainscouncil.org/definition-whole-grain

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-healthy-lifestyle-changes

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/how-to-break-bad-habits-and-change-behaviors

https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/smoking

*Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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Fishing For Our Youth …

My uncle used to love to fish. Even when his body was struggling with Chronic illness and he needed a walker to steady himself, he found a way to go fishing. I asked him, once, “What are you fishing for?” I suspected trout, walleye, or crappie. Maybe, catfish. All were common in the waters of Missouri. With a sly grin and a chuckle, he replied, “My youth!”

For those living with Osteoarthritis, or OA, life may feel like one long fishing trip … day after day … week after week … searching … fishing for their youth. The aging process happens to all of us. Some more quickly than others. One day, we are in our prime. The next, we’re getting a certain card in the mail — officially labeling us as “Seniors”. And while we ponder how time took advantage of us … fooled us … turned us into silver versions of our former selves, we must also deal with what it has done to our bodies. Age plays a significant role in many health issues, including OA.

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Osteoarthritis affects about 27M Americans and globally 300M. It is a degenerative joint disease and the most common Chronic illness of the joints. Although people of any age can get OA, it’s usually diagnosed in those over age 65. It is also the leading cause of disability in Seniors. But, please, don’t panic. Every case is different. Most patients will not require joint replacement surgery, in their lifetime. Some will. And while there is no way to reverse the damage done by the disease, there are ways to help OA patients live better.

If you have been recently diagnosed with Osteoarthritis, your Rheumatologist will discuss treatment as well as lifestyle changes with you, i.e. losing weight, reducing your cholesterol, regular exercise, eating healthier choices, medications, etc. As with any Chronic illness, your mindset is extremely important in dealing with OA. Optimism isn’t always easy, especially if you are battling pain and mobility issues. Some days, you may feel pretty overwhelmed. But hang in there. Be patient. Make some changes. You are worth it. You might even be surprised at what you can accomplish … enjoy … and share with others. No, you can’t reel in your youth. None of us are that lucky. But you can feel better … have less pain … be happier … and continue to stay active. And like the millions who are taking this approach, you can enjoy living!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Osteoarthritis

https://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/osteoarthritis/what-is-osteoarthritis.php

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoarthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351925

https://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/q-and-a/living-with-arthritis/hobbies/does-flying-and-cabin-pressure-affect-oa.aspx

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322603.php

*Photo by William Malott on Unsplash

PT & Chronic Illness Management

What would your reaction be, if your physician suggested Physical Therapy? Would your jaw drop with shock? Would you be frustrated? Confused? Maybe, eager? A lot might just depend upon your perception of Physical Therapy. Most people think of Physical Therapy, or PT, as a postoperative step toward recovery. Others may equate it to a few weeks of treatment following a specific health issue like a stroke. But it is also used for the management of many Chronic illnesses, i.e. Fibromyalgia, Diabetes, various forms of Arthritis, Chronic Pain, COPD, Parkinson’s, etc. Since we know that managing any Chronic illness is the key to living better and healthier, perhaps now is the time to look at the big picture? Think outside the box — beyond any preconceived notion. Talk to your doctor. It’s time to consider what PT can do for you!

 

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If some of you are feeling apprehensive about this idea, I get it. I completely understand. Doctors. Tests. Medicines. Symptoms. Family. Work. You are already doing a juggling act. And it isn’t easy. Physical Therapy is like adding another ball to the mix. But if PT allows you to move more freely … juggle the rest more effectively … isn’t it worth trying? Of course, it is! This is your life that we’re talking about. You want to be able to enjoy it and make the most out of every day.

PT isn’t the Boston Marathon. But it is a way, through simple exercises, to live healthier. Some patients are referred to a physical therapist, by their family doctor or specialist. Others make contact on their own. How you do so may depend upon the requirements of your health insurance. Since physical therapists are licensed healthcare professionals, most plans cover physical therapy, i.e. Medicare, private insurers, etc. A quick phone call can let you know how you should proceed.

Let me put it this way, we already know that exercise can help Chronic conditions. We know that it can prevent many of them, too. Think of PT as a “medical gym” and your physical therapist is your personal trainer. He or She isn’t going to push you beyond your limits. Nobody wants that. They are going to teach you exercises specific to helping your Chronic condition. You will do these exercises together and by yourself at home. And you will see as well as feel the results. With time, you may do additional exercises. You may feel like branching out to swimming, yoga, walking, Pilates, Tai Chi, etc. Perhaps, you’d like to travel? Take your grand-kids camping? Or return to that Saturday golf-league that you once enjoyed? Maybe, you just want to feel better and happier? Discuss your goals with your doctor and your physical therapist. They can help you to reach them.

Millions live with Chronic conditions. They do more than exist. They thrive. They do so by effectively managing their illnesses. It’s time to join them. Let this be the year that you start feeling better — regain control. Live! The choice is yours!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/160645.php

https://www.moveforwardpt.com/Resources/Insurance/Detail/understanding-payment-physical-therapy-services

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise-and-chronic-disease/art-20046049

*Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash

Living With Parkinson’s

For millions who live with a chronic illness, it’s easy to recall life before the diagnosis. It’s equally easy to remember the day that the diagnosis was given — falling like a ton of bricks over them. Those living with Parkinson’s Disease understand this. They’ve been there. In fact, for many living with Parkinson’s, there were little if any symptoms in the beginning. But as the disorder progressed, their symptoms worsened. And there was no denying the obvious … something was wrong.

Parkinson’s Disease is caused when nerve cells, called neurons, break down or die in the brain. This loss of neurons leads to abnormal brain activity and many of the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s, i.e. slowed movement, tremors, speech changes, behavioral changes, rigid muscles, sleep disruption, impaired balance, etc. The exact cause of Parkinson’s Disease is unknown. However, research has proven that genetics and environment can play a role. And age is a clear risk factor.

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At present, there is no known cure for Parkinson’s. But there are interesting strides being made in medical research. In August of 2018, a clinical trial began treating Parkinson’s patients with stem cells. This trial, conducted at Kyoto University in Japan, is the first of its kind in the world. It follows a highly successful restoration of brain cell function via stem cells, in animal subjects, in 2017.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, it’s essential that you manage your disease. Though no special diet is required, healthy eating is always beneficial. Try to plan a period of rest, in your day. It will help offset fatigue. Avoid a heavy schedule. This will help minimize stress. Avoid extreme physical activity. If you need help, ask a family member or friend to pitch in. Patients with chronic illnesses, like Parkinson’s, need a good support system to lean on. Find yours. Talk to them. Take your medication as directed. Keep those appointments with your doctor and/or therapists. Simple, commonsense remedies, i.e. massage, warm baths, heating pads, etc., help immensely. So, don’t ignore them. Try them. You might be pleasantly surprised. 

Living with Parkinson’s, as with most chronic illnesses, involves change. The more that you are willing to adapt, the easier it will be to manage and live with your disease. Yes, there will be tough times. But, with an optimistic approach and a feasible game-plan, there can be good times as well. Go for it!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parkinsons-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20376055

http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2018/worlds-first-clinical-trial-treat-parkinsons-disease-stem-cells/

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/parkinsons-disease

https://www.webmd.com/parkinsons-disease/guide/parkinsons-daily-activities#4

https://www.michaeljfox.org/foundation/news-detail.php?cdc-selects-parkinson-as-one-of-the-first-diseases-included-in-new-database

*Photo by Sandra Ahn Mode on Unsplash.

 

 

Happy New Year!

As the fireworks were bursting in the night sky, what were you thinking last night? It’s 2019! What will the future bring? What should you do? What will you do? Deep questions. Most of us become reflective, with the New Year — even ambitious. Millions make New Year’s resolutions. And, sadly, most people let them slip away. If you are one of the millions who have suffered that defeat, or failure as it is often perceived, you know the burden that comes with it. Hurt. Anger. Frustration. Possibly depression. Nobody needs that added stress. It simply isn’t healthy.

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In 2019, consider a new approach. Let this be the year that you make a list of your accomplishments, in 2018. Or perhaps, a list of 4-5 things that you are looking forward to in 2019? You could even think beyond yourself and think of others instead. When we donate our time, or a monetary donation, we not only help those in need … we help ourselves as well. Research studies have actually shown that when we give of ourselves through volunteering, or a donation, we feel better. It makes us happier. Volunteerism can reduce stress, offer fulfillment, boost your self-confidence, even combat depression. It can help us improve our social skills, provide a different setting for networking, make new friends. All are a plus! When we think of others, i.e. non-profits, community, places of worship, etc., we actually improve our own health and skills. Imagine that! And who doesn’t want better health or happiness in 2019? I know that I do. Best wishes and new discoveries to all!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-science-willpower/201212/five-things-you-can-do-instead-new-year-s-resolutions

*Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Be Still …

As December and 2018 draw to a close, a lot of folks are feeling wiped-out in one way or another. The holiday frenzy can be draining to the body, mind and soul. At times like this, rejuvenation is required. And nothing can be more rejuvenating than the sweet, sound of silence. So, please, stop … and soak it in.

Christianity teaches us to “be still”, in several verses. It is a lesson taught in other faiths as well — to stop, rest, think. Our lives move at a hastened pace. Most show no sign of slowing down. We have health issues, work demands, relationships, financial problems and the list goes on. As it mounts, our stress builds. Sometimes, it results in arguments and bad decisions. All of this leads to more stress … more frustration … more hardship … and more heartache. Despite our best intentions, we lose control — feel overwhelmed. But when we are still, we think more clearly. We breathe more easily. The madness ceases. And we remember that God is in control. He is with us, no matter how bad the situation may be. We aren’t alone. Then, hope begins to flood our veins. And answers come.

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                                   “Be still, and know that I am God …”  — Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

The Aborigines have used stillness, as a method of healing, for centuries. Many Native Americans also used holistic ways to treat their ailments. Although there are differences, from one tribe to another, all embrace bio-psycho-socio-spiritual approaches to healing. When practiced, these methods have worked. A century ago, for example, Diabetes was rare among Native Americans. But, today, many young NA have abandoned old traditions including holistic forms of healing. As a result, Diabetes is now a widespread health issue among them.

Modern Medicine also embraces stillness as a new way to treat many chronic illnesses, i.e. anxiety, stress, hypertension, chronic pain, etc. Stillness has the ability to heal. And Stillness Meditation Therapy is one example. It isn’t typical meditation — no technique is required. SMT, as it is also known, focuses on freeing yourself of disruption. It’s goal is to free the mind and provide mental rest. Imagine that, for a moment.

If you are one of the millions who desperately need to rejuvenate, I encourage you to embrace silence. Give in. Let go. Send the kids to see a holiday movie, so you can cherish a couple of quiet hours. Turn off your phone. Take a walk in the woods. Indulge in a relaxing bath. Curl up with a warm blanket … close your eyes. Empty your mind. Breathe. Be still. Immerse yourself in the beauty of it. Stillness is uplifting, healing and amazing. When we are still, we are healing. Our body and mind is recharged. We feel better. Our focus is sharpened. Solutions are found. And our lives are ready to move forward … into the new year. May God Bless!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2913884/

https://www.thewayofmeditation.com.au/blog/aboriginal-stillness-healing/

https://www.womenshealth.com.au/what-is-stillness-meditation

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-deborah-caldwell/stillness-and-rest-an-essential-part-of-health_b_9093048.html

*Photo by Darran Shen on Unsplash

Be Not Afraid …

Fear. It is our most primal instinct — key to our survival. Nothing motivates us like fear. And nothing makes us more uncomfortable. When you have a Chronic illness, you know fear. Some know it all too well. You live with it, daily. In fact, patients with a Chronic illness are three times more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety. Depending upon their diagnosis, as many as 40% can experience mental and emotional distress. It’s a burden, to say the least. 

Living with a Chronic illness is a lot like living on a roller-coaster. There are highs and lows, curves that toss you around and cork-screw days that leave you nauseous. Coping with the upheaval isn’t easy. Sometimes, you grasp for stability and comfort. Symptoms bring an array of problems. Pain alone can be overwhelming. Then there are the other things … medical bills, insurance issues, side-effects to medication, surgery, complications, various types of therapy, your job, family, etc. All bring you more stress … more worry. And, yes, fear. 

What works for one patient may not help another at all. There are no guarantees, with treatment or life. And the unknowing can be hell. The sheer feeling that you have lost control is both irritating and embarrassing. Feelings of uselessness can haunt you. The lack of mobility is scary. Thoughts of disability may keep you awake at night. Some patients don’t want to burden their families. They fear the thought of it. Yet, they need help. Others are facing end-of-life issues and making very difficult decisions. It’s a sobering moment. A daunting task. And many patients fear death itself.

 

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“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”     — Deuteronomy 31:8

 

If you or a loved one is living with a Chronic illness, be not afraid. You are not alone. Though your days may be a struggle and your nights long, scripture teaches us not to worry … to trust in God. He is always with us. I say this, not as a theologian. I offer it, from experience, as a believer. My faith has sustained me, for decades. Without it, I couldn’t live with multiple Chronic illnesses. I couldn’t cope with the throes of it. But through the grace of God, I do so daily. And when fear envelopes me, I turn to Him. I trust in Him. He remains my light through this constant storm … guiding me … giving me the strength to go on … and always reminding me that there is hope for tomorrow. 

If you are struggling to manage your Chronic illness, take a moment to talk to God. Prayer between you and Him doesn’t have to be a formal prayer. It can be done casually, on the fly. Will it ease your fear? Soothe your pain? Medical research on the power of healing prayer has nearly doubled, in the last decade. If the results weren’t positive, they wouldn’t be interested. The Lord knows your suffering and your problems. He knows your heart — your needs (1 Samuel 16:7). He’s waiting. He’s listening. And His peace does bring comfort to the body as well as the soul.

 

 

References:

https://www.psycom.net/chronic-pain-illness-anxiety

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-main-ingredient/200909/the-most-powerful-motivator

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1016/j.ejheart.2008.04.011

https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/can-prayer-heal#1

*Photo by Daniel Gregoire on Unsplash