Writing and Healing-Reflections
Putting your deepest feelings on paper or into a journal can be a journey into your own soul and a tool for self-discovery and inner peace. There are also some surprising health benefits. There is research that shows that writing what you feel may be a boost to the immune system and help prevent illness. James W. Pennebaker, a psychology professor, did a study where he asked people from all walks of life-prisoners to medical students to write about traumatic events in their life. The control group was asked to write superficial events of their life. The group that wrote the traumatic events had fewer doctor visits and showed a boosted immune response to hepatitis B Vaccine and the Epstein Barr virus. (Important – it seemed the writers used negative response words in the beginning and showed new incites about the incident by the end).
Another study was done at State University in New York, where 51 people with rheumatoid arthritis were either asked to be part of a group that wrote about traumatic events or a group that wrote about neutral events and again the group that wrote about the traumatic events reported less stiffness, swelling, pain, and fatigue than the group that wrote about neutral events. All of this is showing that in fact, writing your deepest feelings is every good for your health.
I started keeping a daily journal in 1985. My first journals were written on 3×5 cards. Eventually, I kept my journals in actual notebooks, and today, I have two bookshelves full of the writing I have done to record my life. Some days are simply – that -simple-what I did with my kids, how I felt, where I ate, traveled, etc. Other days the writing is deep-maybe a poem or reflections from a book I’m reading or feelings I would not necessarily want the world to read. Sometimes I think, “Who is that crazy person? Me!”
One of my goals is to go back and read my journals. I have begun the process, and it’s sometimes fun to look back and think about those early years as a Mom and an older college student pursuing a degree. Sometimes it’s hard to see how serious I was taking life and how many moments I missed worrying too much about things that today seem trivial. It will also be hard to review a time when my spiritual journey took me away from those day to day moments-maybe too much. Eventually, I had to come back to the middle way.
But regardless of how it feels to go back and self-reflect, I have always found the journaling process to be healing and an excellent tool for gaining inner peace. My journals are often my best friend.
My journal goes with me wherever I go as much as possible. There are days that I don’t take the time to journal, but I always go back to those days and add reflections on what I did or how I felt that day. Lately, I enjoy taping my daily newspaper horoscope in my journal and then write about what that could mean to me.
When I travel, I love to journal the sights, sounds, experiences, food, and people from my trips. At the beginning of the summer, we toured Eastern Europe with our Rabbi and Members of our Synagogue. This trip was structured around the history of Jews before, during, and after WWII. There were both painful and joyful moments filled with reminders of the Holocaust and the effects of the War in Eastern Europe and the Renewal of Jewish life today. I was the only one with a journal in my hands throughout the trip. I am currently transcribing those journals and my reflections and hope to include some of the 2500 photos I took while there. I plan to share some of this writing with you.
If you have ever thought of journaling, it is never too late to start. Just get yourself a notebook or writing journal and a good pen and start writing. Write as if no one will ever see it. It is your private conversation with yourself or a dear friend as in Dear Diary.
There are no rules for journaling. Do it your way-the way that feels most comfortable for you.
Here are a few tips to get started.
Choose your writing tools. The sky is the limit. You can use binders, notebooks, decorative journals, or even 3X5 cards.
Find a quiet place and time for writing. I can journal anywhere-at home, in restaurants, on airplanes, or doctor’s offices. But it is really comforting to journal with a cup of tea or glass of wine. Light a candle for an even sweeter effect.
Let go of obstacles that get in the way. If you are worried about someone reading your journal, find a private place to keep them-your secret place. You can even buy lock and key diaries, but they are bulky. A journal is for you. They can also be used if you are writing a memoir or autobiography and wish to share some of your story with others.
Let go of your inner critic. Most important is to let go of an inner critic and editor. Don’t worry about grammar and punctuation. Just write. Later if you want to share your story, you can worry about editing.
Use prompts to get you started and keep you going. As I said, I sometimes cut out my daily horoscope as a prompt for writing about my day or life.
Write the good, the bad, the ugly. Write when you’re happy and when you’re sad. Write when your grateful. Get it all out in your journals. Just Write.
“Guilt feelings, regimentation, and deprivation have no place in our method. We will show you how permanent weight loss can take place in an atmosphere of freedom.” Dr. Leonard Pearson and Lilian Pearson The Psychologist’s Eat-Anything Diet
The Diet Book That Changed My Life
By the time I entered nursing school I had been on every popular diet and counted every calorie, blossoming to a heaping 138 pounds by the end of freshman year. For a 5 foot 2 inch frame this was not a healthy weight. Exercise and sports were not appealing as a teenager, so once I stopped the childhood play—-climbing trees, playing tag or kick the can, or just walking to friend’s houses and school, my body typified the chubby teen. I also smoked cigarettes when I was 16 and generally was clueless about taking care of myself. Often I felt like I was on survival mode, living from one day to the next, getting through school with a plan to become a nurse and support myself.
I remember feeling depressed when I felt fat and feeling elated when I saw the pounds come off, but generally, this was a yo-yo routine without lasting results.
It was when I met my future husband that things began to change. First of all, he was into exercise, so I started jogging. Adding exercise in my life did allow me to lose some weight and enjoy food more. Then, one day I found the book that changed my life. The Psychologist’s Eat-Anything Diet–Wow! This was intriguing. Up to this point I had counted every calorie ,and felt like my mind went from craving or rejecting food and cigarettes. I had no idea what it would be like to really enjoy eating without feeling guilt or deprivation.
This book promised that when you finished reading it, you would be able to:
- Eat your favorite foods.
- Realize there are no taboo or forbidden foods.
- Free yourself from the tyranny of food.
- Get rid of your scales and daily weighing routine.
- Quit counting calories and stop dieting.
- Forget about proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and other old diet standbys.
Dr. Leonard Pearson, a clinical psychologist and his wife, Lillian Pearson, a social worker, applied their knowledge and practice of humanistic psychology and their work with Dr. Carl Rogers, to develop a weight loss program that would not only change how one looks but also what one thinks when it comes to diet and weight management.
They felt that “overeating is complex with many causes.” One of the basic principles of the book is that people do not eat what their body is calling them to eat. Often a weight loss program cuts out foods that you love. Calorie counting becomes regimented, and there is little pleasure or satisfaction at mealtimes.
For me, my mind was always thinking about what I was going to eat and how many calories I was going to consume. These thoughts would often control my mind, and I felt like I almost needed a brain overhaul to get rid of this awful way of thinking and living.
This book offered a set of exercises to increase food awareness and develop more intuitive approaches to choosing what you were going to eat from one meal to the next.
I learned to get in touch with what my favorite foods were and why I enjoyed them. I also learned that when we crave something we have to eat it. The Pearsons also defined beckoning as those foods that call you after seeing them in a window or smelling the aroma of the food from a store, home or restaurant.
Part II of the book offered “Exercises for Food and Drink Awareness and Sensuous Eating.” This would be fun!
I remember the “chip eating exercise” and sitting on our bathroom vanity with a bag of cheese covered Doritos and watching myself eat them. The idea was to chew the chip and watch your mouth chew, while also experiencing the taste of the chip and getting a feel for what it is about the chip that you like—is it the crunch? The salt? The cheese flavor? And in that case, the recommendation was to lick the cheese off the chip and throw the chip away and see if the craving was satisfied. I found that was the case for me. What I liked about the cheese flavored Doritos was the topping. So I would sit on the vanity watching myself eat the chip and lick off the cheese and throw the chip in the wastebasket. Of course, my roommates thought this was nuts, but hey—it was nursing school, and we all had our idiosyncrasies.
The purpose of the exercises was to become aware of why we eat, what we crave, what our body really wants, what is truly satisfying in the eating experience and essentially renew our joy of food.
Chocolate chip cookies were another experience. What is it about the cookie I liked? It was partially the crunch, definitely the chocolate, and a bit about the sugar. What I found with chocolate chip cookies is that I was satisfied if I simply picked the chocolate chip out of the cookie. With chocolate walnut brownies, what I loved was the walnut covered with brownie so I would pick the walnut out of the brownie and throw the rest away or give the crumbs to someone who liked the taste of plain brownie without the chocolate chips.
You see, when you crave food, you definitely are wanting a taste, a texture or an experience. You must satisfy that craving, or you will eat everything in sight until you get what it is you really want.
I used the principles of these books in my later years in my wellness presentations about diet and exercise. Let’s say you crave a Graeter’s turtle sundae — think about it— scoops of pure vanilla ice-cream topped with caramel sauce, chocolate, and pecans. Graeter’s chocolate sundae has about 1200 calories-that’s almost a whole day’s allotment of calories, but, if you must have it you must have it- make that your breakfast and lunch for the day or lunch and dinner and eat well the rest of the day. Truly your body will not suffer if the one day you crave a turtle sundae you indulge.
On the other hand, let’s say you wouldn’t dare. So you have the craving, and you deny yourself the experience. Instead, you have a chocolate cookie. If you want that taste or texture or flavor or experience, you will probably eat several chocolate cookies just trying to do the same thing. Or let’s say you eat the carrot sticks you have in the refrigerator for when you have to eat something but don’t want to ruin your diet, and you want to “be good.” You’ll eat every carrot you have just to satisfy some sort of sweet tooth, or in frustration, keep noshing or grazing only to realize that you are trying to meet your body’s need for a turtle sundae in an impossible way.
The better and lower calorie way would be to buy a turtle chocolate candy or two. If you need the taste of the ice cream, get some frozen low-fat yogurt. Now at least you get the chocolate, the caramel, the pecans, and the feeling of cold vanilla flavored creamy dessert cooling your mouth and flowing down the esophagus to a more satisfied stomach. Here you probably ate about 300 calories tops, but you satisfied the craving.
Do you get it? You can’t ignore your cravings, or you will not feel satisfied physically or emotionally.
So I learned what foods were calling me. What was I really in the mood for? What taste was I dreaming of? What would I really enjoy? I learned to close my eyes and get in touch with my true needs nutritionally and mindfully. Before opening a menu, I would get in touch with what I had a taste for and look for that item or a combination of items that would satisfy my craving. Most of the time I ate less because I knew that I could have whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it as long as I was clear and honest about what I needed.
During my learning and experimental days with this new way of not dieting, I did have a negative experience it is only fair to share with you. Before classes in nursing school, we would sometimes meet in the cafeteria for breakfast. On this new not diet, I would go through the line and look at the food and only take what was really calling me to eat. One morning I had such a craving for the big gooey pecan roll. Instead of just getting one with maybe some yogurt or milk to balance it off, I decided to take two pecan rolls, with the idea that at lunch I would choose something lighter because I would be satisfied and full from this breakfast. Well as I got up from our table, fully satisfied and content with my consumption of this gooey treat, I fainted right there and fell on the floor of the cafeteria. I was quickly rushed next door to the emergency department where I was diagnosed with severe hypoglycemia. My blood sugar had dropped to 40 (normal being 80-100). I was quickly given an IV solution of glucagon, the glucose substance used for diabetics who have an insulin reaction.
Well — this too was a good experience, because what I learned is that we cannot live by bread or carbohydrates alone. We do need to balance our food and have some protein at every meal. I would have been okay had I eaten one pecan roll and some yogurt or even a small glass of milk.
But this was all part of the experiment. I learned how to eat in a way that was fun, guilt-free, and allowed me to experience life and food in a whole new way. For the first time in my life, I was free of the diet mindset. I thought about food, but without having to imagine depriving myself of my favorite foods. Nothing was off-limits anymore. Also, I only ate when I was actually hungry, and stopped eating when I felt satisfied. I knew that I could eat anything I wanted whenever I craved it, and I did not have to raid the refrigerator and eat everything in sight to get there.
I truly learned to enjoy my food, and I do believe that since food is so essential and eating is such an integral part of daily life-not just to nourish the body, but also to nourish the soul and meet social needs, we must not just eat to live but live to eat.
If more people enjoyed the eating experience and the vast array of wonderful food without the guilt associated with indulgence, we would have less obesity in this world.
To this day, I truly eat what I am in the mood for and what calls me. Gradually I did give up my taste for red meat and most high-fat foods. I have grown to savor fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, fish and nuts. I allow myself to eat dessert or candy to satisfy my sweet tooth, but my body has learned to enjoy fresh and healthy food.
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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 Spice up 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 broccoli several 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 wine Studies 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.
- Garlic is 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.
- Practice the Middle Way. Keep your life balanced and joyful by following the path of moderation in all things. Avoid extremes and let go of judgment of yourself and others. If you need help along the way and are ready to change your life, coaching can be a helpful path to living life to the fullest. This blog and my coaching are dedicated to promoting health the Middle Way. Feel free to share any of my articles. I am forever grateful for my readers and welcome new subscribers.
DON’T FORGET TO LAUGH
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.
I was at the book store one day and was reading a book. Across from me was a young woman reading a book and every few pages would burst out laughing as if nobody was around. She made me laugh!! It’s like The Wonky Donkey video -a grandma having the best laugh as she reads the book to her grandson.
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.
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.
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.