Our Dietary Guidelines Are Killing Us

Rules for Living
Our Dietary Guidelines are killing us, and here is why – nobody follows guidelines!  The guidelines tell us what we are supposed to eat to stay healthy.  Yet, as a nation, we continue to get sicker and fatter.  A heart attack at 41 shows you how well I follow guidelines.

History of the Dietary Guidelines

The Dietary Guidelines were first developed in 1980.  Every 5 years, the Government appoints a group of nutritional and medical experts to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC).  The DGAC is responsible for researching and producing the report and guidelines.

So how effective are these guidelines from DGAC?  The committee addresses that right up front by stating the following:

The 2015 DGAC’s work was guided by two fundamental realities. First, about half of all American adults—117 million individuals—have one or more preventable, chronic diseases, and about two-thirds of U.S. adults—nearly 155 million individuals—are overweight or obese.

The report found that these conditions have been highly prevalent for at least two decades.  This means the conditions became highly prevalent about a decade after the guidelines were first published!

What’s Better Than Guidelines?

Rules!  Rules are meant to be followed and have explicit consequences when not followed.  If you are trying to prevent or recover from a heart attack (or just get healthy) set some rules and stick to them.  Abe Lincoln and I have previously stated our rules for living.  His may be a bit more eloquent, but here are mine:

  • Don’t smoke – A hard and fast rule. Smoking accelerates the dying process.
  • Get off your ass – Move at least 30 minutes a day, 5-days a week. Put workouts on a calendar and don’t miss them!
  • Quit eating crap – Unprocessed and nutritional foods 6-days a week. Day 7 is a cheat day, go nuts!
  • Simplify your life – Make some rules about work/life balance and stick to them.

Amazingly, Abe and my lists are quite similar.  I may add “steer clear of biliousness” to mine in the future.  In the meantime, know that following these rules will substantially improve your overall health.  Not following the rules will lead to chronic disease and obesity.  Time to make a choice!

Heart Healthy Tips To Keep Your Ticker in Top Shape

american-heart-month-header

February is National Heart month, a special time for all you HeartGeeks out there.  The heart get’s it’s own month for a very important reason, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.

On a positive note, you can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease. To lower your risk:

  • Get active and eat healthy.
  • Watch your weight.
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.

For more information, read this guest post by Miranda Hammer who blogs at http://www.northwestpharmacy.com/healthperch/healthy-heart/

Diet, exercise, lifestyle, and genetics all have an impact on cardiovascular health. To optimize overall wellness and protect yourself against stroke, heart attack, and high blood pressure, consider integrating a few of these heart-healthy tips into your daily regimen.

Cut the Salt

Excess salt in the diet can lead to high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, an elevation in blood pressure can cause damage to the arterial walls, increase the accumulation of plaque, and block blood flow. Salt intake isn’t limited to a sprinkle here and there at the table. Processed foods, restaurant meals, and fast food feature high amounts of sodium. In order to decrease salt intake, read food labels and reduce consumption of packaged and pre-made food. The USDA’s recommendation for total daily salt consumption is 2.4 grams, which is about one teaspoon of table salt. Try cooking your own meals and swap salt for other seasonings such as garlic powder, oregano, or paprika. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and purchase items with no salt added.

Be Active

The National Institute of Aging recommends 30 minutes of moderate-to-intense physical activity on most or all days of the week. This regimen is ideal for protective cardiovascular benefits. Intimidated by CrossFit or a spin class? Consider a brisk walk, gardening, or even bowling to keep you moving. Don’t have a 30-minute block of time to spare? Break up the physical activity into 10-minute intervals. Make sure to consult your physician before initiating a new workout program.

Lose Weight

Packing on too much weight can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions. Extra fat around the midsection poses the highest risk since it is in close proximity to internal organs. Start integrating a healthy lifestyle rich in whole foods and physical activity to reduce weight and/or maintain a healthy weight.

Quit Smoking

Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death. Smoking causes plaque to build in the arterial walls, which could lead to stroke or coronary heart disease. It is never too late to stop and reap the benefits of a smoke-free life. Try cutting back one cigarette a week until you are smoke-free. Introduce new activities and experiences that were previously a challenge as a smoker, such as sitting through a play or a movie, picnicking in the park, or spending quality time with children and pets.

Manage Your Stress

According to the Cleveland Clinic, stress can have long-term physical manifestations. Stress-related anger can lead to heart arrhythmias, increased blood pressure, and damaged arteries. Reduce stress by taking control of your mind and body. Prioritize sleep and exercise. Organize your schedule, take time to relax, limit negative relationships and situations, and integrate deep breathing and relaxation exercises into your daily life.

Eat Heart-Healthy Foods

Adopting a whole food, plant-based diet has been linked to lowered blood pressure and cholesterol as well as weight loss and weight management. A plant-based lifestyle is primarily rooted in foods from the earth. Dark leafy greens, herbs, root vegetables, fruits, legumes, avocados, nuts, seeds, and a variety of whole grains all encompass a plant-based diet.

Maintaining a diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides fiber, which aids in digestion and lowers cholesterol while supplying essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Aim for a colorful variety of organic and local produce when possible. If that is not an option, opt for frozen produce that is salt-, sugar-, and preservative-free.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to the diet and are key components for boosting cardiovascular health. They increase HDL (the good) cholesterol in the body and reduce triglycerides. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish, ground flax seed, and dark leafy greens. When selecting fatty fish, choose sustainable and wild options over farmed and endangered.

Other heart-healthy fats include monounsaturated fats, which are found in olive oil, olives, avocados, and nuts. These fats assist in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.

A comprehensive heart-healthy diet is limited in processed, fast, and frozen foods. Consume alcohol in moderation, and limit sugary foods and beverages. By making small, manageable changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can easily improve your cardiovascular health and overall wellness.

american-heart-month_footer

Why You Will Not Keep Your New Year’s Resolution

new year's resolutions

Most people resolve to lose weight, quit smoking, or get fit at the start of a New Year. These are all great resolutions, particularly for a HeartGeek. However, if you are like 92% of American’s, you are going to fail!

Don’t worry, it’s not your fault (never is). Resolutions are a setup. They don’t require follow through. Anyone can declare his or her good intentions. Even easier after a few cocktails on New Year’s Eve.

Then we sober up and realize it’s hard to lose weight or quit smoking. Game over. We really do want to achieve those things; we just don’t have the ability to commit, to stick with it. Why not?

Why We Fail

The root of our failure may be focus. Meaning, we are focused on the wrong thing. Instead of starting a new diet in January or resolving to lose 20 pounds by beach season, how about just focusing on being healthy.

That’s what Sandra Aamodt recommended during her TED talk last year. She begins her talk by telling us she gave up dieting as her New Year’s resolution and lost 10lbs as a result. Take a look at the entire (12 minutes) talk below.

If you hung in there, you likely heard that when it comes to losing weight, our brains are working against us. A bunch of research tells us the brain does not handle dieting well. That’s why we have to stop dieting. Instead, get healthy.

How To Succeed

You likely also heard what you already knew – eat right, exercise, and eliminate (or moderate) unhealthy habits. It turns out that healthy people are better able to control their weight and live longer than unhealthy people.   Shocker, right?

So instead of chasing a lower number on the scale or pure abstinence, try the following:

  1. Eat more fruits and vegetables
  2. Eat whole grains
  3. Reduce red meat
  4. Reduce sugar
  5. Avoid processed foods
  6. Exercise for 30 minutes at least 3x per week (go for 5, it won’t hurt)
  7. Quit smoking (that’s the only extreme one here)
  8. Reduce alcohol intake
  9. Reduce stress (deep breathing, yoga, etc.)
  10. Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night

Give that a go for 6 months and see how you feel. There’s a good chance that you will have lost weight without even trying!

Photo credit: Alan Cleaver / Foter / CC BY

HeartGeek Year In Review

2014I hope everyone had a happy and healthy holiday season.  I am in vacation mode – which means I am being lazy and not writing new posts.  Seems like a good time to look back on this past year’s most popular posts:

  1. My Favorite Heart Health Gadget – My first gadget review. The Alivecor is a portable device that provides a real-time electrocardiogram (ECG) on your cell phone. Another favorite is the Basis Peak fitness watch.
  2. Heart Attack and Cardiac Recovery – Get Off Your Ass – It’s good to see an interest in exercise. This post provides strategies to get moving and stay motivated.
  3. Exercise After 40? It’s Not Too Late! – More of a reference than a post. Provides a link to a study that found starting exercise at 40 has the same heart benefits as starting exercise earlier in life.
  4. Heart Attack and Cardiac Recovery – Stop Eating Crap – A post describing my experiments with different diets and a top 10 of what really worked.
  5. Heart Attack and Cardiac Recovery – Simplify Your Life – Tips for getting rid of the unhealthy habits and distractions and focusing on what is important – your health!

Those were the most read posts this past year and I truly appreciate you taking the time to read them. I also had a few favorites (in no particular order):

  1. What is a Cardiac Arrest? –Learn the difference between a cardiac arrest and a heart attack in this post.
  2. Sugar Increase Your Risk of Dying From Heart Disease – Fatty foods are considered enemy number one for cardiac patients. This post explains why sugar may be just as dangerous.
  3. What is Your Child’s Risk of a Heart Attack? – Healthy living is a family commitment. Strategies to get our kids moving and head off early heart disease.
  4. How To Prevent Your Next Heart Attack – Strategies for planning the rest of your life.
  5. The Best Supplements For Heart Health – Find out what supplements can increase your overall energy, allow you to exercise more, have less fatigue, less muscle pain and cramping, and even get a better nights sleep.

I imagine everyone is starting to make their resolutions.   Exercise, diet, etc. are all good and I wish you the best.   Check back in here throughout the year if you need a little motivation.  In case you are struggling with resolutions, there is a good post on Zenhabits describing the benefits of establishing new habits over making resolutions.

I am trying to figure out what to do with this blog in 2015.  Let me know what you liked and didn’t like over the past year.  What information do you find most beneficial?

Thanks, and Happy New Year!

Paul

HeartGeek Completes Triathlon

HeartGeek Triathlon

HeartGeek Completes Triathlon

Just a quick post to let everyone know that I survived the Dewey Beach Triathlon.  My family and I travelled down to the beach last Friday evening and met three friends who also made the foolish decision to swim, bike, and run for an ungodly amount of time.

After dinner at the Starboard, we all went back to my friends house and turned in somewhat early.  Nobody slept too well that evening and we all began stirring around sunrise the next morning.  Luckily, the starting line for the event is about five minutes from the house.

The morning was gray and the sea was angry.  Almost 1,000 competitors marched a half mile down the beach just so we could swim back the same distance.  Staring at the swells of the ocean during that walk was somewhat intimidating.

It wasn’t pretty, but I finished the swim.  My biggest obstacle out of the way, it was on to the bike.  This leg was my best and fairly uneventful.  After a quick transition, I was out running.

About a mile into the run, my quads started cramping.  Another runner told me to “stride it out”.  I basically sprinted two blocks and walked one block for the next 2.5 miles.  Funny thing is, it didn’t impact my time too significantly.

I was very happy to finish and was even pleased with my overall time.  Here is the kicker, when looking online at my results, I found out I was penalized.  Officially, the penalty reads “abandonment of equipment”.  I think it really means I dropped an energy bar!

Tri Friends

Time for a new challenge.  What should I do next?

Heartgeek Training With Moose!

moose swim

I hit the beach last weekend for a little training with a couple of longtime friends and fellow triathlon participants.  The wife and kids were away at Grandmas, so I was flying solo.  Early Saturday morning, I went for a four mile run, showered, and strapped the bike on the car.

Salt Water Nemesis

I arrived a little before lunch, had something to eat, and hit the beach.  The number one goal of this trip was to get in some ocean swim time.  Something I had failed to do during a week at the beach in late July.

With my ocean swim goal in mind, I decided a nap was in order.  Thankfully, my two buddies shamed me out of that plan.  Time to hit the water.  Lots of witty banter ensued about how much this was going to suck.

We set out with a goal of a quarter mile.  What would be a warmup in the pool.  Within a few minutes, I was already sucking wind.  Unlike a pool, it’s impossible to see where you are going.  And even with only three of us, I was about to collide with one of my buddies.

Swimming turned into basic survival.  Two of us hit the quarter mile goal in a very ugly fashion.  The third in our group mockingly completed a full half mile.  It was rough, but the obstacle and associated fear was finally removed.  I might, just might be able to do a half mile in the ocean.

The next day, we set out to conquer the bike course we will be riding on race day.  Eight miles out with the wind in our face and eight miles back with the wind in our face. The downside of riding near the ocean.

Later that day I commented that I still thought the swim was the worst leg of the triathlon.  My buddy replied back:

Let’s face it, they all suck!

Survey Says

So why are we, or for that matter, why does anyone put themselves through this misery.  Several years ago, fitness writer Ben Greenfield asked his readers why they did triathlons.   Scroll down to the comments to find some interesting responses.  Below are a number of those reasons:

  • To prove I can do anything
  • For balanced fitness
  • Personal challenge
  • Bragging rights
  • To be a bad ass!

There you have it.  Prove to yourself and everyone else that you are a BAD ASS!

Training Summary

For those keeping track,  here is the suggested training plan for the week (per trinewbie.com)

Triathlon Weekly Training

Monday was my off day.  I added a weight workout to Tuesday’s run.  I bumped the Wednesday swim up from a 400 to a 1600 (swimming is my Achilles).  Due to an early morning flight to Northern Minnesota on Thursday, I substituted a weight workout for the brick.

After arriving in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I had to make some major adjustments to the training plan.  I didn’t bring the bike, so here is the plan:

  • Friday – Find one of those 10,000 lakes
  • Saturday – Run
  • Sunday – Off
  • Monday – Run

Since this is a vacation, there will also be a lot of Dairy Queen and Pizza involved.  Good time to double down on the cardio.  Three weeks to race day!