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!

The Heart Attack Risks of Shoveling Snow

woman shoveling snowI love the snow (but I don’t live in New England). It’s a great time for sledding, blog writing, reading and relaxing by the fire. Notice I didn’t say shoveling? That’s right, I don’t do it. Although I am probably in the best shape of my life, I leave the shoveling to my wife.

While you are mocking me with a “she must wear the pants” comment, let me explain why she carries the shovel. My wife just won’t let me shovel snow – for good reason. Snow shoveling has a reputation for triggering heart attacks and I have an extremely suspect cardiac profile.

Avoid Shoveling If You Are At Risk

According to an article Dr. Marc Gillinov of the Cleveland Clinic, people at risk of having a heart attack while shoveling snow, include people who have:

  • Heart attack history
  • Heart disease history
  • Heart bypass surgery
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • 2 or more: Smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol

I have 4 out of 5 of those, so take back your snickering insults. It seems that people with these conditions may have suspect plaques in the arteries of the heart. The stress of shoveling snow can rupture these plaques, leading to blockage in your arteries. As a reminder, blocked artery = heart attack.

There are other factors at play here as well – mostly male stupidity. Nothing like eating a bunch of chicken wings, washing them down with a 6-pack and then shoveling in shorts and a t-shirt.

Play It Safe When Shoveling

The best way to protect yourself from harm while shoveling is to treat it as exercise:

  • Don’t eat a huge meal before heading out to shovel
  • Stretch
  • Warm up with a brief walk
  • Hydrate before and during shoveling
  • Layer clothing and stay warm.

Of course, if you fall into one of the categories on the high-risk list, don’t shovel. That’s what your wife or kids are for!


Gillinov, Marc A., MD. “Shoveling Snow Can Kill You.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 08 Jan. 2014. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.

Photo credit: AstridWestvang / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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!


Symptoms of a Heart Attack, Silence Can Be Deadly

man clutching heart
We have all seen the Hollywood heart attack. It starts with a middle-aged man clutching his chest and breaking into a sweat before gasping for air and dropping to the ground. This makes good film, but the actual symptoms usually come on much more gradually – or not at all!

Know Your Risk Profile

Before diving deeper into the actual symptoms of a heart attack, it’s important to understand your cardiac risk profile. Having this understanding will help you put the symptoms into context. Risk factors include:

  1. Hereditary
  2. Smoking
  3. High Cholesterol
  4. High Blood Pressure
  5. Inactivity
  6. Obesity

The first risk factor is obviously out of your control. Your risk of a heart attack increases if your father or a brother was diagnosed with heart disease before 55 years of age, or if your mother or a sister was diagnosed before 65 years of age.

If heart disease is in your genes, managing the rest of the risk factors becomes even more critical. Doing so is not complicated, but it is hard; quit smoking, eat healthy, and exercise. The hardest part is getting started.  Set realistic goals, and start making changes.

Heart Attack Symptoms

Hopefully you are working to manage your risk profile. But let’s say you experience some pressure in your chest or pain in your arm. What should you do? Words could not provide a better explanation than the video below. Be warned that parts of it may be considered a little graphic.

Great stuff, but I could have done without the vomit.  Also, if in the U.S., be sure to dial 911.

The Silent Heart Attack

There is one other type of heart attack that you need to be aware of – the silent heart attack. Even the name is scary. As many as 25% of all heart attacks fall into this category. A silent heart attack happens when no symptoms are felt or they are misinterpreted.

This is what happened to me the day I had a heart attack and cardiac arrest. Reading a book to my daughter one minute, no pulse the next. Afterwards, my wife said I had been complaining of fatigue for a few days. Knowing my cardiac risk profile (heredity, smoker, poor diet) I should have talked to my doctor.

If you have a high cardiac risk profile, talk to your doctor about silent heart attacks.  Most importantly, don’t ignore any symptoms of chest pain, “heartburn”, shortness of breath, or fatigue.  Because silent heart attacks happen with no warning, the need for immediate response is critical to your survival.

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?

How To Prevent Your Next Heart Attack


During a bike ride last week I was listening to a Tim Ferris interview of Kevin Kelly, the co-founder of WIRED magazine.  Tim is a little smitten with Mr. Kelly, and rightly so.  In fact, he has declared that Kevin Kelly might be the real-life Most Interesting Man in The World.  Listen to the interview(s) and you might agree.

Mr. Impatient and Irreverent

Where am I going with this and how is it related to preventing a heart attack?  At about the 34 minute mark of Part 1, Tim asks Mr. Kelly for advice in regards to optimizing the rest of his life. Mr. Kelly offers some guidance for practically reinventing yourself.  It’s not going to happen over night, so don’t feel impatient.

The advice to not feel impatient struck a chord with me.  Prior to my own death, impatience defined my approach to life.  My attitude towards my own health is a good example.  I knew I needed to quit smoking, exercise, eat better, etc.  The task just seemed too large.  I was stressed out about my unhealthiness, but I lacked the patience to make a plan for change.  The ability to make slow and steady progress towards a goal was not in my DNA.  If it couldn’t happen over night, I would just accept my doomed fate and carry on!

Not a solid approach to managing ones life, but it defined me.  Not only was I impatient, I was irreverent about my life. It could be health, school, work, or even relationships. Big things intimidated me, so I just put my head down and waited to see what would happen.  Even after my heart attack, I didn’t feel changed. I was grateful, but I wasn’t making a plan for the rest of my life.

Back to Mr. Kelly.  About 15 years ago, he had a revelation.  He was going to live his life as if he only had six months left.  The complete story is detailed on a very early episode of This American Life.  He thought is would be a series of high risk flings.  Instead, he spent his time visiting family and taking a bicycle trip across the country.  Family time and a challenge filled with quiet discovery.

Bringing Back Planning

As the interview progresses, Mr. Kelly refers to his friend, Stuart Brand.  Mr. Brand is another interesting guy and is best known for his early role as the editor of the Whole Earth Catalog.  Honestly, I had never heard of Mr. Brand or his catalog.  What struck me was the discussion on making plans for your life in 5-year chunks or “projects”

The more time you spend contemplating what you should have done… you lose valuable time planning what you can and will do. – Lil Wayne

You see, Mr. Brand wants to make long-term thinking sexy again.  Did I mention that back in the 1960’s Mr. Brand was one of Ken Kesey’s original LSD fueled Merry Pranksters?  Anyhow, he might be on to something with the five-year plans.  Basically, he believes five years is about the amount of time it takes to identify and execute any meaningful project in your life.

So let’s see, I am an almost 50 year male who survived a cardiac arrest and heart attack and am now living with advanced cardiovascular disease.  How many projects do I have left?

I don’t think of this question in a morbid sense.  I have a second chance. This is my opportunity to plan and hopefully accomplish a few meaningful things with the rest of my life.

So what are my projects (I consider these goals)?  I have one overarching goal right now:  Start an online business.  Over the next week or so, I intend to write out a five-year plan to help me accomplish this goal.

I wanted to share my plan, but I need to learn patience and think through this.  More to come.

Share your five-year plans below.

Photo credit: stargardener / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)