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!

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

Heart Attack and Cardiac Recovery – Relax

Hammock_relaxLife is full of stress.  Before my cardiac arrest and heart attack, my primary two methods of stress reduction were smoking and drinking.  It was the perfect one-two punch.  Smoking, the constant jab, providing immediate stress relief. Drinking, the knockout punch for total relaxation.  My one-two punch served me fairly well for twenty-odd years, only to be derailed by a cardiac arrest.  I was no longer allowed in the ring!  Stick with me and I will show you how I am dealing with stress and even getting better sleep.

Before my event, I knew that my unhealthy lifestyle was not going to lead to a pleasant outcome.  After all, both my father and brother suffered heart attacks before 40.  So how did I deal with the stress of my gloomy cardiac fate?  See one-two punch above.  That’s right, more smoking and drinking!

And then BAM!  Cardiac arrest, heart attack, dead – the Triple Lindy!  As moronic as it sounds, I felt a sense of relief when I ended up in the hospital.  I could now get on with the rest of my life. However, the uncertainty regarding the rest of my life brought on new stress.  Will I fully recover, will I be well enough to support my family, will I be around to see my children grow up?  I have a great cardiologist and he put things into perspective for me.  I can’t remember the exact words, but he advised to put the trauma behind me and live my life as fully as possible.  I could worry about every ache, pain, or what if – or I could go enjoy life.

Do the Right Thing

I still needed to find a way to reduce stress and relax in general.  I considered aromatherapy, but found that just doing the right thing allows me to relax best.  So how does one do the right thing:

  • Act in a respectable and responsible way.  I’m trying. Acting respectable is a challenge.
  • Take ownership for my health and actions.  I do this most of the time.  Exercise has proved a solid replacement for smoking and drinking
  • Have some humility.  I’m trying.  It’s hard when you are the center of the universe.

Again, try and keep it simple.  Don’t be a jerk, do what you’re supposed to do, and get over yourself.

Sleep

Studies have shown the poor sleep can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.  And, cardiovascular disease can decrease the quality of your sleep.  A vicious circle that I have been trying to solve for years.

You would think with all the simplification, healthy eating, and daily exercise, I would be stress free and sleeping like a baby.  Sadly, not true.  I have made progress with reducing stress, but I could use some improvement in the sleep department.  I can fall asleep, I just can’t stay asleep.  I average about six hours per night. If you remember back to Part 1 of this series, I introduced you to Leo Babauta and his Zen Habits site.   On his site, Leo provides a formula for sleeping like a baby:

  1. Exercise – I do this, not sure I can do much more here.
  2. Get up early – I do this, up between 5-6 everyday.
  3. Establish a bedtime ritual – Doing this, but not in the best way.  I read my books on an iPad.
  4. Keep the bedroom only for sleeping – No TV in the bedroom.  Just that damn iPad.
  5. Focus your attention – I need to do this.
  6. Change slowly – OK.

I like that Leo admits he is still not a great sleeper. I also take a magnesium supplement and have installed f.lux on my laptop to assist with sleep.  Magnesium plays a role in sleep regulation and calming down your brain at night.  I have noticed that I fall asleep faster and get more restful sleep since starting the magnesium supplement.  F.lux makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.  I am not sure that it helps me sleep, but my eyes don’t get as strained at night.  I’ll keep it just for that.

That’s the plan.  Simplify your life, eat right, exercise, and relax.  You have a second chance at life.  Experiment, have some fun, and find what is going to keep you engaged and healthy.   Writing this series made me realize just how far I have come and how much I have changed.  I’d love to hear about how other have changed.  What’s your cardiac recovery plan and how’s it working?  Let me know in the comments below!

The full series of Zen and the Art of Cardiac Recovery Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4

Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Heart Attack and Cardiac Recovery – Simplify Your Life

simplifyI thought about changing the title to “Cardiac Recovery Step 1 – More Porn” in order to get you to read this.  A few years ago, I would never have continued past the headline “Simplify your Life”.  Sounds like a load of new age nonsense.

That was before I died.

Now that I have a second chance at life (as may you), I am a little more open to new concepts.  Cardiac recovery begins with simplifying your life.  After all, you may have just lived through a major cardiac event – you don’t need more complexity in your life.  You need to simplify in order to recover, get healthy, and enjoy life.

It’s Simple, So It’s Easy, Right?

Wrong.  Simplifying is difficult; it means shedding bad habits and behaviors.  It means changing the way you live.  It means changing your values.  It means changing the way you think about the things you have and the things you want.  In addition to being an irresponsible man-child, I am also a gadget guy with a short attention span and I like things!  While I still accumulate my fair share of them, here is what I have given up over the past few years:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Drinking soda
  • Junk food (mostly)
  • Chocolate (somewhat)
  • Gym membership
  • Cable TV
  • Satellite radio

So why did give all this up?  Smoking and bad genes are what killed me in the first place.  Many people thought I should quit that habit.

Drinking wasn’t helping me out either.  If I drank, I wanted to smoke.  If I drank too much, my heart went into A-fib.  If I was hung over, I wanted to sit on the couch, watch, TV and eat bad food – while in A-fib (told you I was a mess).

There have been a few studies over the years that indicate diet may have a role in heart disease. I have mostly stopped drinking soda, eating junk food, eating handfuls of M&Ms, and chewing a pack of gum a day (did I mention I quit smoking).  As much as possible I eat whole foods and avoid sugar.

Quitting the last three on the list was all about simplification and came with the added benefit of saving money.  I spent more time driving to and from the gym than actually working out at the gym. Cable and satellite can be time sucking black holes of mindless babble.

What do I miss most?  Smoking and Howard Stern.

So what did I gain?  Making a commitment to simplify my life has provided me with more time to eat right, exercise, sleep, and focus on my overall well being.

It’s Simple, So It’s Quick, Right?

Wrong.  There is no quick fix here.  I did a lot of reading and experimenting with different methods to simplify and be more productive.   There are thousands of great books and blogs out there offering all kinds of advice.  A couple that I found helpful were Zen Habits by Leo Babauta and MyrkoThum by well, um,  Myrko Thum.

When I learned Leo Babauta  was previously an out of shape smoker like me, I knew I was in the right place.  Take some time and check out his site.  The site link provided above is to the Getting Started page.  It’s also useful to read his bio.  If I didn’t know better, I would say Leo’s list of changed habits belonged to a cardiac patient.   From quitting smoking, to exercising, eating healthy, and starting a new career.

I have to admit, I am actually not all that familiar with Myrko or his SYSTEM of personal development.  Myrko made MY list because of HIS list at the link above.  A very simple guide to simplification:

  1. Turn down the noise
  2. Clarify what you want and need
  3. Do less without losing anything
  4. Say “No” in Order to Say “Yes”
  5. Declutter
  6. Invite silence into your world

If that list makes you cringe, the site also offers a practical explanation of how to simplify your life in two steps:

“The first is to get clear and to focus on what is really important to you. This means to do more of what makes you truly happy, what you feel you have to do on this world. The second way is to remove as much distraction from your life as possible, so you actually can live in purpose and fulfillment”

For me, this meant getting rid of the unhealthy habits and distractions and focusing on what is important to me and the well being of my family.  Simple enough, right?

If you think you want to explore this topic more, check out the Alltop Lifehack page as a starting off point.  Here you will find everything from how to simplify and declutter to how to build a Bluetooth speaker and why you should own a survival bow & arrow – as if that is not obvious.

I am not following any specific program, list, or person in my path to simplification.  Nor have I quit my job or given away all of my possessions. I just take bits and pieces from all over the place, try a few out, and see what works for cardiac recovery.  When in doubt, I keep it simple.

The full series of Zen and the Art of Cardiac Recovery Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Photo credit: Jon Ashcroft / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)