My Travels, Health, and Healing my Human Heart

My Travels, Health, and Healing my Human Heart

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.

Dr. Danielle Ofri’s book What Patients Say. What Doctors Hear, states it well:

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More on Retirement-Two Great Books Two Great Interviews

More on Retirement-Two Great Books Two Great Interviews

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.

 

Retire With a Mission by Dr. Richard Wendel.

Listen to my Blog Talk Radio interview with Dr. Richard Wendel on Retirement. Dr. Wendel is a retired urologist who has both written the book Retire With a Mission and has given many lectures on retirement.

 

 

 

 

Your Retirement Quest by Alan Spector and Keith Lawrence

Listen to my Blog Talk Radio interview with Alan Spector and Keith Lawrence. Alan and Keith are retired P & G executives and enjoyed writing the book Your Retirement Quest and have given many seminars on retirement.

 

 

I Believe in Magic! Home Remedies for Cold and Flu

I Believe in Magic! Home Remedies for Cold and Flu

“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.

Natural remedies

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.

MARY’S 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.

Enjoy! And Be Well!

 

 

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Everyone Can Use a Pep Talk!

Everyone Can Use a Pep Talk!

Mary Speaking Closeup

It’s Time for a Pep Talk!

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Have to Stop Sooner or Later – A Reminder

You Have to Stop Sooner or Later – A Reminder

As I reflect on my life right now, I want to share an article I wrote that I am reminding myself to follow.

This year has been a very stressful, yet exciting year. We made a major move from a house of 31 years to a new home- very different, a connected “landominium”, maintenance free living-quite a change. Between preparing the house for sale, decluttering,  keeping it immaculate for the weekly showings for months, working with the builder on the plans for our new home, and the major task of moving in general, my body has taken a toll. You really do have to be mindful of a stress and the affect of pushing until your exhausted. We are now settled and loving it, but I reacted to something while unpacking and developed a major allergic dermatitis reaction. Now on steroids and drugs, it is important that I take time to heal the cells of my stressed out body, by reconnecting my mind and spirit.

Today I put out the yoga mat while listening to meditative music and did a 40 minute yoga routine for detoxing. It felt very necessary and quite nice. My husband and I have resumed our Tai Chi practice in the evening, and hopefully this bout of illness will pass, having been a blatant reminder that YOU HAVE TO STOP SOONER OR LATER!

Anyway, here is the article:

For years people who have talked about wellness referred to weight loss, fitness or smoking cessation programs. Later we identified the role stress plays in our overall health and wellness so we developed stress management programs.

Interesting that although the wellness industry has spent the last 20 years designing programs and providing health promotion information to the point that most consumers are very well educated, health is not improving
much – Not the kind of health that is defined by an overall sense of balance of body, mind and spirit or physical, emotional or spiritual togetherness. In fact many people are exercising and watching their weight. Unfortunately many people have given up and continue to spiral upwards. There is no loss of material on what constitutes a healthy diet or adequate fitness program. There are also more self help books published than ever before to help us deal with our stress management.

Keeping all of this in mind, it is interesting that when I work with people as a wellness coach, their vision often includes a regular exercise program and healthy diet, but it always seems to include the word
balance and gaining more energy and enjoying life more. Yet that is the one place it is hard to concentrate. To stop all of our activity, whether it is for our work or just to keep the house managed is very difficult. We just keep going until our body can’t go anymore and then we get sick. It is when we get sick that we question how we have been going about getting all these things done.

More and more people have said to me that they need to take time to meditate, yet less and less do. Why is that? I know for myself I often feel that once this or that item on my to do list is complete, I will be able to sit back and relax. Sitting seems such a waste of time when there is so much to do. That is why we recommend that you schedule a regular time for meditation regardless of what is going on in life or with work. It has to be as built in as brushing your teeth. It has to be an everyday occurrence.

But what if we are just not of the makeup to sit in a formal meditation? That is not necessary, but what is necessary is to have some sort of practice built into your life for reflection on more than your everyday tasks. The fact is that one’s body and mind can’t keep on going without a break. Eventually you will have to stop.

Regardless of what your life looks like right now, it is helpful build into your day a time( even if just 5 minutes)  for silence, prayer, yoga,reflective reading, listening to peaceful music, journaling, or if you can, sitting in a position of meditation, following your breath long enough to feel a difference in your body- a feeling of peace and quiet rather than rushing and a sense of urgency. If you practice enough, it will become a memory in your body that you will be able to tap into when life is speeding by. Like all of my clients, it has to be a priority and goal for change. Let that be now and not later.

Don’t Miss the Moments. Slow Down the End of the Year Rush

Don’t Miss the Moments. Slow Down the End of the Year Rush

photo

First snowfall on top of autumn leaves

What is your vision for the rest of the year? Before you know it, we will be celebrating a new year. Are you looking too forward without enjoying the days we have left? I know this is an overwhelming time-busy with Fall cleanup, preparing for Thanksgiving, Hanukah and Christmas, business deadlines, and for many struggling with a budget or health issues. But this can also be a very peaceful time if we savor the moments right in front of us.

Let’s stop a moment and see if we can put our activities in slow motion.

Autumn is such a pretty season. The leaves certainly take their time revealing their colors and the leaves fall at their own slow and flowing pace. Sit under a tree and wait for a leave to fall in your hand. The task of raking leaves seems never ending especially if you have a large oak tree in your front yard like we do. And our red maples are almost ready to shed their glorious crimson leaves before our first snowfall. (Which came last night). Yet autumn leaves can be magical when a child jumps into a pile just raked or we feel their crispness under our feet as we walk.

In a couple of weeks, we will all be sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it is not about material gifts but rather the gift of gratitude and family blessings. December is the month of gift giving, which we do for both Hanukah and Christmas. However this year is different. The first day of Hanukah is Thanksgiving. We light the first candle the night before. This means that we will be celebrating both holidays on Thanksgiving.  No problem. I will decorate sooner and perhaps have potato latkes in addition to mashed potatoes and gravy. For the grandkids we normally give a book each night of Hanukah. So this year they will get to open book with all of us after dinner.

photo copy

Loved the leaves covered with snow. If you look close you can see the leaves falling.

I always enjoy the first snowfall of the year. Like the leaves, snowflakes take their time falling on the prettiest snow days, flake after flake, each a different shape and identity. Remember the song- “Here comes Suzy Snow Flake. Look at her tumbling down. Bringing Joy to every girl and boy as Suzie comes to town.” Can Suzie bring us all joy? (Full lyrics below)

Soon there will be the lights of the winter holidays as they sparkle in neighborhoods all over the world. I can’t wait-oh, I mean yes I can, but when they shine I will savor each moment of experiencing the joy of the season.

Let’s not rush through these last days of the year with anxiety. I do feel sadness when I think that stores are going to open Thanksgiving night to get a rush on holiday shopping, cutting short quality time and warm conversation.

I know there is a lot to do. I feel the anxiety too, which is why I am writing this. I want to remind myself to slow down, and take note of all I am thankful for including the fall leaves, the holiday experience, and the warmth of being with family and friends.

*Lyrics to Suzy Snowflake:

Here comes Suzy Snowflake
Dressed in a snow-white gown
Tap, tap, tappin’ at your windowpane
To tell you she’s in town.

Here comes Suzy Snowflake
Soon you will hear her say
Come out ev’ryone and play with me
I haven’t long to stay.

If you want to make a snowman
I’ll help you make it, one, two, three.
If you want to take a sleigh ride
Whee! The ride’s on me.

Here comes Suzy Snowflake
Look at her tumblin’ down
Bringing joy to ev’ry girl and boy
Suzy’s come to town.

If you want to make a snowman
I’ll help you make it, one, two, three
If you want to take a sleigh ride
Whee! The ride’s on me.

Here comes Suzy Snowflake
Look at her tumblin’ down
Bringing joy to ev’ry girl and boy
Suzy’s come to town.

*”Suzy Snowflake Lyrics.” Lyrics.net.
STANDS4 LLC, 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.
http://www.lyrics.net/lyric/3592509

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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