HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY AND HAPPY HEALTHY HEART MONTH
February is Healthy Heart Month and Valentine’s Day is a great time to start healing your heart. You know from my last blog that laughter is healing. Here are 14 more tips for health and heart healing. They are not in any particular order. They are all important.https://themiddlewayhealth.com/a-new-years-resolution-you-can-keep-dont-forget-to-laugh/
If you do nothing else for your health-Buy a Pedometer.Exercise and movement are the best medicine. Make it a goal to get 10,000 steps a day. You can get the steps by simply walking, going about your daily activities, shopping, or dancing. Yes-dancing. When I have to get more steps in my day, I will put on my favorite music or television show and dance around my family room. I might also add some running in place, marching, side steps or fast walking around the house. You would be amazed at how steps accumulate just from moving.
Eat Breakfast. Research has shown that people who skip breakfast pack in more calories throughout the day. By starting your day with breakfast you are telling your body it is going to be well fed throughout the day and you needn’t binge at points of hunger. A great breakfast is fresh fruit especially berries, high fiber low sugar (less than 6 grams) cereal, live cultured plain yogurt (no sugar) and a cup of coffee or tea. A few times a week you may want to add an egg for additional protein. That’s great on days you are working out at the gym or getting heavy-duty exercise in.
Spices Spiceup your food. Indian spices like curry powder, cumin, turmeric and cardamom are very healthy. These spices have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help to prevent illness. These are especially important during cold and flu season. Garlic and oregano are also excellent additions to any recipe and both can have antibiotic properties.
Eat broccoliseveral times a week. Broccoli is a great vegetable for fiber, vitamin C, and anticancer properties. Raw broccoli is great with low-calorie dips made with live cultured yogurt. Cooked broccoli is very beneficial as long as when you eat it, the bright green color is still there. Other heart-healthy veggies are asparagus, Brussel sprouts, and beets.
Include Wild Alaskan salmon in your diet at least once a week. This salmon is a source of the fish oil that prevents heart disease. Salmon is a great source of protein and has the good fat that protects the heart. For heart health remember SMASH – Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Snapper, and Halibut are the best fish choices for a healthy heart.
Drink red wineStudies are showing that one glass of red wine (4-5oz) a day is good for your heart. The wine has a powerful antioxidant –resveratrol and also relaxes your body and mind to alleviate the stressors of the day. Stick with dry red wines. White wine can also add some benefit, but does not have the healthy -resveratrol.
Practice meditation Meditation calms the mind, reduces stress, and with practice can aid in reducing blood pressure. Meditation does not have to be complicated-simply site, close your eyes, focus on your breath, and watch your mind without having to do anything about your thoughts. There are many apps you can download to your phone that help you to meditate. My favorite is Insight timer.
Practice Forgiveness. Holding onto resentment and anger will only make you sick. Open your heart to how another feels and you may find yourself able to have compassion for the other side of the story. Forgiveness is the key to happiness and healing. The premise of A Course in Miracles is forgiveness. I have been studying and teaching the Course for over 30 years now and facilitate a monthly group meeting.
Eat Dark Chocolate Steve and I eat two squares of dark chocolate almost every night after dinner. Dark chocolate has many healing properties. it not only tastes good but it is good for you. The darker the chocolate the better. it is rich in antioxidants and flavanols-powerful healing substances. Chocolate is also said to be good for the skin and because it supports keeping the blood fluid and flowing is helpful in preventing stroke and heart disease.
Garlicis one of my favorite staples. Garlic is not only an antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral natural antibiotic, but garlic also is very good for the heart. Garlic is thought to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation. I travel with garlic and add it to my toast, soups, and whatever I can at the first sign of illness. Check out my garlic soup recipe.
No Smoking If you smoke-QUIT. It goes without saying, smoking kills every organ of the body, especially the heart and lungs. I hate to admit that I smoked years ago and quit when I was 30. I am so glad I no longer smoke. It is not easy to quit. You have to see yourself as a non-smoker instead of an ex-smoker. Health has to be your top priority. Coaching can help.
Eat healthy fats.Olive oil and Avacado are two of the best heart-healthy fats you can eat. I substitute olive oil for butter and oil in most recipes. I also love to have avocados cut up fresh or in my delicious guacamole. Avocados are also a delicious topping for toast. Make sure they are ripe enough. They should feel slightly soft to touch but not brown.
Drink lots of water and avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners in soda pop and juices. Water is the purest beverage. Add a little lemon or even fresh cucumbers for flavor. Filtered water is best. We have an Aqua Pure filter under our sink and to our refrigerator. If you buy bottled water, buy filtered not spring as you have no idea how pure the spring water is. Most important is to drink water throughout the day.
Laughter is a release, a bonding agent, a prescription for health, a weapon and more. When someone laughs at your jokes today-not a polite laugh but an honest-to-goodness “I get you” laugh — it feels like love. (From my daily horoscope)
When was the last time you had a real belly laugh? A laugh where tears are rolling down your face, and your whole body is moving. In that moment you forgot everything around you. This is very healing-very important.
The average adult laughs 17 times a day. Humans are one of the only species that laughs. Have you ever seen your cat or dog laugh? They kind of just look at you like your nuts or maybe wag their tail.
Laughter is the best medicine!! While you’re at the pharmacy picking up your $ 500 worth of drugs or while you’re at the health food store buying mega dollar’s worth of supplements pick up a bottle of humor. At the end of my mother-in-law’s life when she was very sick, her doctor wrote on a prescription pad-Laugh!
The study of laughter is called gelotology. It is actually a science.
What really makes us laugh? There are a number of theories about laughter.
Incongruity theory – Jokes- We anticipate the end, which usually is something stupid, or something illogical –doesn’t fit-or fits in an abnormal way –it’s just funny. Hits us as funny. A good joke can be very clean. Knock knock jokes etc.
Superiority theory– laughing at the expense of someone else or someone’s culture etc. Not really helpful and can just be a cover up for prejudice and anger – not healthy.
Relief theory- Jokes in the middle of tension – just need a humor break in the middle of stressful situations.
Tickling – but you can’t tickle yourself because tickling needs tension and surprise.
Laughter is the rhythmic, vocalized, expiratory, and involuntary response of the body. When someone tells a joke, you need the left brain to analyze the joke, the frontal lobe activates (social emotional response), the right brain helps you “get” the joke, the back of the brain sends nerve signals that make you react.
Damage to any of these areas can prevent someone from having a “sense of humor”.
When you laugh, many things are happening in your body. 15 facial muscles contract. The respiratory system is upset enough to make you gasp. If you laugh hard enough the tear ducts are activated. The mouth opens and closes so you get enough oxygen. The face becomes red and moist from increased circulation. We create all kinds of noises – some dainty and some very loud.
There are two types of sound in laughter – ha ha ha or ho ho ho or both. Laughter Yoga uses these sounds while teaching deep breathing and laughter. It’s wonderfully healing:)
Laughter is contagious.
John Morreal, a philosopher believes that the first time humans laughed was after danger passed and they shared the relief-like wow! That was a close one! Ha ha ha.
It is something we share with others and usually you laugh with others when you trust them and feel like you belong. People are 30 times more likely to laugh in a social setting than when alone.
We laugh at different things at different ages and get jokes more as we mature.
We laugh at the things that stress us out!
We may not laugh if we don’t get the joke or we don’t find the joke funny or if we just lack a sense of humor.
If the boss laughs you can laugh or if the one in power laughs it is okay to laugh – tribal.
Laughter is sometimes used to cover up anger or sadness or fear. Nervous laughter!! There is laughter in those tears or tears in the laughter. Helps to release emotions. That is why funny movies or comedy clubs are so popular.
There is scientific research that shows that humor reduces stress, increases your ability to tolerate pain or even to forget about chronic pain, and boosts your immune system
In the book, The Anatomy of an Illness , Norman Cousins describes how he healed from his chronic illness by watching funny movies and television skits. Carl Jung believed that all Illness is mental illness and all mental illness is a spiritual disconnection.
Don’t take things so seriously. Anything we take seriously can be made fun of!!!
Laughter decreases stress and stress hormones that cause disease. Increases killer cells that kill cancer and viruses. Can clear the respiratory tract by causing coughing or hiccupping
Laughing 100 times is equal to 10 minutes on a rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike. Lowers blood pressure. Increases vascular flow. Assists in healing.
And when there is no chance of avoiding the end of life, live in the moment. I can remember when my Mom had pancreatic cancer. She was dying but still managed to laugh. We kept her alive with humor, chocolate, high fiber Vitamix smoothies, and a powerful use of denial. We laughed a lot and also shared tears together.
The world is a crazy place. Not one of us will ever be able to figure it all out. We cannot possibly judge because we are limited humans and lack all the facts. All we can do is watch ourselves play our parts in the movie. Grab some popcorn and raisinets and laugh. You would not tear apart the movie screen so don’t take your life so serious. Sit back and observe yourself and your relationship with others.
Figure out what makes you laugh and do it! Read funny books or watch funny movies.
Surround yourself with funny people. Don’t waste your time worrying.
Develop your sense of humor. Be funny. Coco Chanel said – You only have one life to live you might as well be amusing.
Have fun!! Enjoy!! What is preventing you from laughing right now? Whatever it is……
It’s all a silly mad Idea don’t forget to laugh!!!! (A Course in Miracles)
Florida Artist Rita Schwab is holding her beautiful glass mosaic that reflects journey, path, heart 🙂
This is a long post with a long story that begins with just a catch up on our travels including our experience with the flu, and then my cardiology journey and resistance to doctor’s orders. If you have ever felt you and your doctor were not communicating-read this post. Enjoy!!
This year we have done a lot of traveling-California in January, Nevada and Arizona in February, Florida in March and early April, and in May I went on a wonderful and writer changing retreat in beautiful and peaceful Santa Fe, New Mexico. Each of these trips have their own story and lots more to share.
It’s been both fun and exhausting and Steve has set his own boundaries around travel. “I can’t unpack and repack a suitcase without an at home for a while break. “It’s too much!” I, on the other hand have a hard time saying no to life and opportunities to travel, explore and experience everything. Steve reached his limit when after completing a delightful family Caribbean cruise, we embarked for a 10-day vacation to be with friends in Cape Coral, Florida and the second day there he was diagnosed with Influenza B. Poor Steve. For the first week of that trip he was either outside on their beautiful lanai or in the house wearing a mask. Although our friends were wonderful, “like family”, and we did enjoy many great conversations in between rest time, this did take a toll on all of us. Our dear friends hung in there with us and we all went on Tamiflu. I was the only one who did not have at least a day of the flu.
At the Urgent Care, it was noted that my blood pressure had climbed to 160/90 — yikes! I was stressed. I managed my stress by writing daily out in the Tiki Hut down on their deck and canal landing. It is a beautiful and serene place to reflect and write. Some days I would just rest in the hammock or sit and meditate and listen to the many sounds of nature. It helped that the weather was beautiful. I also enjoyed an evening glass of wine, which I noticed did lower my blood pressure. Toward the end of our stay we were able to go out and enjoy the last few days of our trip. One of our outings was an art fair in Cape Coral where I met and photographed the artist, Rita Schwab and her glass piece used with her permission as my photo for this post.
By the time we got home and to our own beds, Steve was exhausted and I was concerned about my heart. I purchased a new OMRON B/P monitor and made an appt with a cardiologist.I continued to monitor my blood pressure and it varied-sometimes high and other times normal. I really focused on my breathing and although I did not sit in formal meditation every day, I attempted to stay mindful of my thoughts and pace of living.
As I sat in the cardiologist’s waiting room, I felt a bit out of place. The room was filled with elderly people, some in wheelchairs, and the younger patients were very overweight. I “pride” myself in being as healthy as I can “the middle way” through exercise, a plant-based diet, and meditation, yet here I was. I have to admit I have a strong family history of heart disease—Mom, Dad, and siblings. But I thought I was different and was on top of controlling the risk factors, at least that’s what I thought. Yet now I realize how hard it is to control the biggest risk factor-underlying tension and anxiety.
My cholesterol is high but so is my good cholesterol. I used to smoke but quit 36 years ago, and I have not been overweight since nursing school. Why was I there? My primary care physician was okay with me going although he has never seen my blood pressure over 120/70. He takes my blood pressure every time I see him, and he carefully monitors my lipid profile every year.
Long story short, the cardiologist was not quick to put me on any medication (I liked that!) until I had some tests to determine if I, indeed, showed signs of heart disease. He ordered an echocardiogram and coronary calcium scan (CAT Scan of the heart and its major blood vessels). I was game. The heart scan took about 20 minutes and the echocardiogram took almost an hour.
The next day I got a call from the nurse who gave me the results of my tests—the echo was normal and the heart scan showed minimal heart disease, better than most for my age so the doctor would like me to take a daily 81 mg of Aspirin and 40 mg of Lipitor. Noooooooooooooo.You would have thought she told me the doctor wanted to do open heart surgery. I totally reacted with surprise, anger, sadness, and disappointment and asked that she have the doctor call me.
He did, and it did not go well. The American College of Cardiology recommends the aspirin and Lipitor for a patient picture like mine. Actually there are many cardiologists that feel we should all be on a statin. But that’s it! This doctor really does not know me and I am not a typical patient. I had only seen him one time, and we need to go beyond one size fits all medicine. My primary care physician is an MD with years of alternative medicine experience and for over 25 years has followed my health and prescribed the daily supplements I take. I take no prescription medicine and don’t want to start. On the other hand, I also don’t want to have a heart attack or stroke and would welcome a plan to prevent further heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women.
When the cardiologist called, I let him know how disappointed I was that the nurse called and that we did not talk before I was given a prescribed plan that included a statin drug without more discussion on its benefits and its risks. Statin drugs do lower cholesterol and prevent plaque buildup in the arteries, but they also come with an array of side effects—muscle aches and weakness, GI symptoms, and more. There is a ton of research that is now questioning the cost/benefit of statins.
I have to admit, I did not give the doctor a chance to explain how we would proceed or how he would follow up with me. When I got off the phone, I felt sad that the conversation did not go well and I wished I had sat in a 30-minute meditation prior to speaking with this doctor. This doctor has an excellent reputation as a cardiologist, is very kind and personable and I am sure he has saved many lives. I wish I could have expressed myself in a better way to be heard by the doctor. I also wish his office would have scheduled a follow up appointment so that he could go over the results with me in his office. Most of all I have used this experience to reflect on my own defensiveness and fear and also trust that there is a blanket of universal forgiveness between both of us.
Doctor patient communication can be difficult. There is fear on all sides. I have a deep respect for the medical profession. I am a Registered Nurse and know how difficult it is to navigate around a system that is frustrating to the patient and the doctor. And I also know that in today’s world of alternative, integrative and functional medicine, there is much that medical schools and nursing schools have failed to teach. The research is often driven by pharmaceutical companies who have a vested interest in us taking drugs when there are so many alternatives to healing. I will not take a long-term prescription without research and that is my current mission about statin drugs and heart disease prevention and treatment in general.
Patients, anxious to convey their symptoms, feel an urgency to “make their case” to their doctors. Doctors, under pressure to be efficient, multitask while patients speak and often miss the key elements. Add in stereotypes, unconscious bias, conflicting agendas, and the fear of lawsuits and the risk of misdiagnosis and medical errors multiplies dangerously.
A week later, I went to my primary care physician. He agreed that going on a statin drug was premature, but also agreed that we needed to take the tests serious and take a closer look at my cardiac risks and current status. He was grateful to have the test results for additional information about my health. He recommended beets and cayenne pepper as nutritional support for the heart. He also recommended 1000 mg of Niacinamide (Vit B3 derivative-not as much research on its affect on cholesterol like Niacin). He also said he may want me on a low dose of of Zocor, which is a statin. I might add that my physician knows me well and suggested I relax and balance my chakras.
My lifestyle supports health but there is more I can do. I exercise (making sure I get 10,000 steps a day) but could increase the intensity of my walks and add more strength training. My diet is plant based; no red meat and I avoid saturated fat- but I am far from perfect and need to be more aware of salt and sugar. I do meditate, but I am a hyper personality and need to focus on breath awareness and slowing down in between life’s adventures. But more important than all of that is that I often feel I live in two worlds. On one hand I teach and coach a very deep spiritual path of love and forgiveness and on the other hand I have the same fears of illness and death as everyone else. Our fears fuel our defenses and often cause us to separate rather than join.
In two months we will repeat all of the blood tests that aid in determining my current heart disease risk. Since being more mindful of my diet, exercise and meditation as well as forgiving myself and the doctor, (Forgiveness is a powerful medicine for the heart), I have noticed my blood pressure has been staying within the normal range and I am hoping my blood tests show that I can reduce my heart disease risks without taking medicine.
In the meantime, I will continue my research, be mindful of my lifestyle, and stay “open hearted”. I have a follow up appointment with the cardiologist in 6 months. I’m not sure if he is the right fit for me, but it would be nice if we could meet again. I will go prepared to listen to him and hopefully he can also listen to my concerns and we can join in a much more productive manner.
In the end, its not about any of this. It’s always about all the lessons we learn along the way and as I continue the journey, I enjoy bringing you along.
Enjoy these two interviews I conducted 6 years ago for my Blog Talk Radio show, The Middle Way Health. Now that I am retired these two interviews were even more meaningful to me today. If you plan to retire within the next 5 years, I highly recommend these books.
“Healthy people eating healthy food should never need to take an antibiotic.” -Dr. Joel Fuhrman
Tis the season for colds, flues, viruses, sinus congestion and just feeling plain yuk! Many run to the doctor at the first sign of illness, which usually is not necessary and simply spreads your germs or sends you out only to pick up some more.
For a virus, antibiotics do nothing but mess up your normal good bacteria in your digestive tract (mouth, stomach, intestines).
When I get sick there are a few things I do that seem to shorten my days on the couch, but I try to start my natural regime at the first sign of a depleted immune system (scratchy throat, achiness, fatigue, or what I call the eewy geewies when I just know there is a bug in me).
If you have incredibly horrible symptoms like a high fever, cough, sore throat, sneezing and blowing out green or yellow gunk for more than a week – you may need to make an appointment with your doctor but generally rest, stress management, and supporting your immune system with a healthy diet and natural remedies will decrease your time on the couch or bed.
Before you try any of these remedies, although you probably don’t need the doctor, I would at least ask what he or she thinks of the magic. More than likely your doctor will say “whatever works” or “there is some research to show…” or “never heard of it but it can’t hurt” or just take some Tylenol, Ibuprofen, or Aleve and rest. That’s all good advice but is there anything else you can do? Yes! Here are some home remedies you can try.
First and foremost eat a healthy diet rich in vitamins and antioxidants-vegetables and fruits, green smoothies and soups with added healing herbs and spices such as garlic, ginger, onion, and turmeric. Apple cider vinegar added to your food or taken as a drink has long been known to heal sore throats, colds, and viruses. Horseradish root is an excellent natural antibiotic and decongestant great for loosening mucous or encouraging a blocked sinus to drain. Avoid sugar except for raw honey, which has long been used for its antibiotic properties. Honey added to a cup of ginger tea and sprinkled with a pinch of cayenne pepper is an excellent sore throat remedy.
My favorite natural remedy is garlic. I carry garlic with me when I travel and at the first sign that I feel like there is a bug in me. I eat raw garlic chopped up on bread or mixed with my food. When I am dining out, I don’t hesitate to ask my waitress or waiter to bring me a side of chopped garlic. And yes sometimes you do reek to those around. There is a famous quote “Since garlic then hath powers to save from death, bear with it though it makes unsavory breath.” – Salerno Regimen of Health.
I can remember a time when I was traveling and while at the airport waiting for a flight, I felt like I was coming down with something. I went to one of the airport restaurants and ordered hot soup and a side of garlic. I ate it all. While on the airplane I heard the people in the seats behind me saying “ I smell garlic. Wow! I bet she just ate Italian food!.” It seemed my garlic ingestion was noticeable.
And speaking of garlic, check out my recipe for Garlic Soup.
Start with Chicken or Vegetable Broth (You can use any clear soup or make your own with bullion cubes). Bring to a boil
Add Several cloves of fresh garlic cut up. (I add as many as 10 cloves to about 4 cups of broth) Use as much as you can stand and don’t over cook the garlic.
Simmer the soup with the garlic for a minute or two. (Another variation is to sauté the garlic in the pan before adding the broth. This makes the garlic more tolerable if you don’t like it raw.) I eat garlic raw so I cook as little as possible.
Remove from heat and add: 1 tsp of Apple Cider Vinegar. Sprinkle with Cayenne pepper. (According to taste -a dash can create quite a tang so add according to what you can tolerate).
Other helpful spices are Turmeric, Cumin and Ginger which all have healing properties.
Another variation is to add a beaten egg to the boiling broth like egg drop soup.
If you want to make a more hearty soup, go ahead and add some cooked chicken, turkey or sautéed vegetables. Onions are always good for healing.
Be sure to chew the garlic pieces when you eat the soup.
As a life and wellness coach, spiritual advisor, and simply as a friend, I have given lots of pep talks. And there are times when I need a good pepping up myself.
I always say, I teach what I want to learn. And I learn from everyone.
Everybody needs pep talk sometimes. We all get down on ourselves, have upsets with life, and generally as normal human functioning human beings, lose our sense of motivation and energy. That’s when like all people on a playing field, we need a good Pep talk.
So here goes:
>You are doing great even if you feel like you are faltering. You are doing your best. Reward yourself for functioning at all. Sometimes in these dark winter months, we feel like a blob. Half the day may go by and your still in your pajamas-that’s okay sometimes. We all need a day to do nothing but wake up and breathe. If you give yourself a pajama day without guilt, you may feel a burst of energy and productivity the next day or week.
>Be grateful! When you are stressed it is always good to take 10 deep breaths or even 3 if that’s all your mind can focus on, but if not then think of at least three things you are grateful for right now!!
>Life will present plenty of opportunities for you to be negative. How about looking for something to shift your mind to a more positive view point even if it feels or looks like sh_t. You know the story of the little boy who said he smelled something-it was horse manure and rather than say yuk! He said there must be a pony around here somewhere.
>Quit over thinking everything. It all may be good and there you go trying to figure out what could be wrong. The ego analyzes. The spirit accepts. Stay in the moment and enjoy it. If something feels off, listen all around you to see if there is anything you need to do about it or learn from it.
>Tame your inner critic and listen to your inner cheerleader. We all have an inner critic, but we also have an inner voice that guides you to living a life that flows. One of my favorite cheers was:
Jumpin in the grandstand, beatin on a tin can, Who can? We can? Nobody else can! Standing on our hands, standin on our feet, the Rockets the Rockets can’t be beat!
Well try that one in the morning when you wake up less than excited about your day.
I tell my grandkids-Can’t died in the cornfield. YOU CAN!
And here is a pep talk from a young man aspiring to be president: