Who’s in charge?

healthy living waterfall  As we begin our journey into the topic of women & heart disease, I’d like to set the tone.  Those of you who read faithfully, bear with me.

As a new nurse, I was about to discharge one of my 1st patients from a busy med-surg floor.  Her MD (a rare one indeed) delivered her post hospital stay instructions himself.  This patient, obviously didn’t realize what a gem she had.  When I returned to her room, she casually asked me to call him back in.  “I think I was sleeping; or something, maybe I just wasn’t paying attention” was her excuse. At least she was honest.  Though young and new to the profession, I didn’t lack courage to speak my mind.  I told her I would try to reach him.  However, I reinforced she is ultimately responsible for her own health.  “Just who’s in charge of my care?” she continued.  I replied,”you are.”

That experience indeed set the tone for the way I choose to practice.  Then as now, I believe no one should know your body better than you.  Too often, we put ourselves in the hands of another–MD, nurse, personal trainer, before we are taught to attune to what our bodies are telling us.  Each of us have idiosyncrasies–unique ways in which we respond to medications, exercise, as well as circumstances.  Do you know what elevates your heart rate?  For me, a cup of green tea can do it–albeit mildly.  Running around a track in 90 + heat takes little toll on me, but jumping jack squats?  I’m fighting back nausea, struggling to keep my stomach contents from making an appearance.  These are my idiosyncrasies.  Do you know yours?

TEMPER, TEMPER

Most of us realize the correlation between blood pressure, stress, and of course, anger.  Just like the co-worker who’s irritable at 9am, but ok by 10, or our realization that the lot is full by 8, but we can still find a parking spot at 7:45, we learn to adapt.  We leave 15 minutes early; we avoid grumpy cat till at least 10:15.  But what exactly is the cost of that adaptation, if we are talking stress and hypertension?  Yes, blood pressure will rise, because your stress level is up.  Yet what if stays there?

Before you answer, do you know what your blood pressure is at rest?  Your heart rate?  Plenty of expensive and inexpensive gadgets around to help you find out.

What’s the point of these questions?  To help you become acquainted with what makes you, well, you.

Slowly but surely, healthcare practitioners are discovering there is no “one size fits all” medicine.  There never was this mythical standard; only signs & symptoms which are common to certain disease processes.   Before we delve into one such process–women & heart disease–inventory is necessary.

SOME FOOD FOR THOUGHT

How many days a week do you exercise?  How long do you spend doing it?  What type of exercise do you do?  Do you become short of breath easily, even after a mild workout?

Do you take medication?  If so, for what?  How long have you been on it?  When’s the last time it has been re-evaluated?  If you have started an exercise program, has your medication required adjustment?  Is your healthcare practitioner aware of your program?

What is your resting heart rate?  Blood pressure?  Do you know?

Have you been told to lose weight? If so, by whom? (Facebook “what’s your excuse” fit mom and air brushed media images don’t count)  Why were you told to lose weight?

These are just a few questions for which you should have an answer, before beginning a fitness routine.  They are part of my questionnaire, prior to taking new clients.

They should also be part of your knowledge base.  Risk factors, healthy living, and wellness are only terms–terms which are meaningless unless you know who you are, before deciding what you want to become.

Next post–Risk Factors.  More importantly, what you can do about them.

Questions?  Comments?  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com

 

Listen to your heart…

meditating beauty  In order to renew a license as a registered nurse, you are required (at least in the state of Illinois) to complete CEs.  This refers to continuing education.  While completing this requirement, a topic surfaced I confess, I thought little about–WOMEN & HEART DISEASE.

As most of you know by now, my career has taken a different turn.  I started out as most do, working in a hospital.  From there, caring for chronic renal failure patients, is where I headed next.  In this field, I’ve worked as a staff nurse, charge nurse, educator, and clinical liaison.  I have taught and written classes.  To students, fellow nurses, and physicians I have explained the ins and outs of dialysis, as well as the possible causes of CKD (chronic kidney disease).  All the while reminding those who needed it, that dialysis is not a cure–or substitution for functioning kidneys.

Now my full-time endeavors are geared towards prevention.

Renal nursing taught me two things–very early on.  Diabetes & hypertension are the #1 and #2 contributors to CKD.  They both wreak havoc on the kidneys; but the latter is particularly heinous–and rampant among women of color.

Women, and particularly those who share my background, are almost non-existent when discussing symptoms, and undergoing clinical trials.  If you are discussing heart disease, men are always the standard. Ladies, if your symptoms don’t match up to your male counterparts having a heart attack–you may be SOL.

With that in mind, keep these questions in mind.  Hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes–a little extra weight–what’s the big deal? I exercise, but the weight (and the scale) just aren’t moving.  Now what?  Can’t I just pop a pill to fix it?  For the answer, stay tuned.   But fair warning, it’s going to be a bumpy and startling ride.

CHUNKING IT OUT

I once had a boss who coined this term.  She used it often; when our cup was overflowing with work–yet she was about to fill it more.  “CHUNK IT OUT,” she would say.  Well, that’s what I’m going to do here.

This material wasn’t easy for me to assimilate; or even hear.  Yet I believe it relevant enough in which to devote a few posts.  I hope you agree.

Depending upon how this goes, I will be addressing other topics like this; but fitness and nutrition remain my focus.

The intention of this blog is not to diagnose, or serve as a substitute for medical advice.  My main objective is prevention through lifestyle intervention and modification.  As a nurse, personal trainer, and educator, I do believe however, it is my duty to inform.  In upcoming posts, I will be doing just that.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Questions? Comments?  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com

 

When common sense isn’t so common…

recovery needed  Promises, promises.  I’ve heard them; so have you.  Shoes built on an incline to strengthen your calves and help you burn more calories.  Another with minimalist support, to enable you to run “like you were meant to.”  Well if I was meant to run barefoot, why do I need to spend money on a shoe?

Then there’s my personal favorite.

Sprinkling this item on your food, will help you push yourself away from the table.  Will keep you on track, and of course, lose weight.

I admit, I almost tried the five-fingered, rather “toed” shoe.

However, the sprinkles from the get go, I thought was pure farce.  I don’t know why this ad left me with such a bad taste; maybe it was the B-celeb promotion.  It still didn’t ring true for me,  even when it made its way to QVC.  Home shopping by no means is my litmus test for fact filled products.  As many do though, I assume it has some credibility and underwent their rigors of testing, before being put before their audience.  In my opinion, QVC has had its gaffes before–but probably no more than any other channel carrying infomercials.  The difference being is now, they personally assume the risk.  Translation?  Loss of profit and customer confidence.

This post is not intended to slam home shopping, or companies which are truly trying to make our lives better.

But if take a look at the link, you will see a host of products.  While the gist of the article is fraudulent claims and reimbursement, it underscores something more endemic to the consumer.  Once you read it, it’s not hard to figure out.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/what-to-do-when-companies-deceive-you-204007109.html

In the quest for better living, let’s not forget this.  Weight loss, beauty, and better sex have one resounding theme–the majority will stop at nothing to get it.  Therefore the minority, with these so-called improvement products, will stop at nothing to sell the majority what they want.  Think about that the next time you reach for your colonic, male enhancement, or even mascara.  Though the three combined might make for interesting conversation, i”m sure you get the idea.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Questions?  Comments?  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Are you eating because of what’s eating you?

eat it up  This was one of my more popular posts, originating last year.  However, I wanted to re-post it as a follow-up to “What’s in a number?”

You are what you eat.  Most of us have heard this reiterated since childhood.  We’ve probably put it to use ourselves, in an attempt to discourage “unhealthy” eating habits.

Why we eat, is just as important as what we eat. 

You are on your way home from work, which happens to be a 90 minute commute.  Today traffic is being rerouted, bypassing your exit.  Your little one should have been picked up 15 minutes ago, and the sitter wants to know “how much longer?”   Your eldest son has football practice, and is now contending with the sitter for you to pick up his call.  Your husband is also waiting to be heard, but his call gets dropped.  You finally make it off the expressway.  Your husband called back, and is on his way to the sitter.  Your son phones again–but this time it’s to tell you football practice is Thursday; today is Tuesday.  You actually get a unemcumbered trip home.

Even if this isn’t quite your life–you get the idea.

Now perhaps you have had a late lunch, even munched on that “healthy” snack while sitting in traffic.

Yet what will most of us do within the next 30 minutes?  Forty percent of us caught in this or similar scenarios, will stop at McDonald’s, Burger King, Brown’s Chicken, or whatever franchise is nearest and dearest.  A portion of this forty will order take out.  If you are not part of that percentage, there is a sixty percent chance once you arrive home, one of your initial actions will include opening the refrigerator; even if you don’t have to prepare a family meal.

Sound a little more familiar?

Women are usually portrayed as the poster children for emotional eating.  Starting in our teens (and often earlier), we develop a love-hate relationship with food.  Yet if we take a second look at the above scenario, this could have been Dad–caught in the same situation.  Who’s to say his actions wouldn’t include a trip to Burger King or Popeye’s?  Maybe, maybe not.

While our emotions may not be gender biased, perhaps our reaction to them, is.  Either way, taking a step aside as well as one back, is the best way to assess the situation.

While I am not an emotional eater, I fall into the category of emotional non-eater or faster.  If I am truly stressed, I can go for days without eating.  However once the circumstance is resolved, the “flood gates open.”  Also, if I find myself hungry before bedtime, I CANNOT go to bed that way.  There are few circumstances I find worse, than laying in bed hungry.

Before I find myself post-stress, I know I must prepare.  Easy access is key.  Keeping cereal bars low in fat & sugar, and other snacks in the house that will not translate into pounds on my body, are part of my preparation.  Once I feel able to eat a meal, the idea is I won’t want to drive to the nearest rib joint or fried chicken place (though these are always a temptation).

For me, assessment and planning are tantamount to staying on track.  Recognizing my triggers, then preparing for them before the deluge ensues, is part of my plan.

Many ideologies and theories exist on emotional eating.  None of them mean much, unless you realize what is happening, and find a suitable solution.  Hindsight may be 20/20.  Yet that hindsight comes with a cost.  It may mean the difference between the 20 lbs you gain, or 20 lbs you won’t have to lose.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Questions?  Comments?  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com

 

 

 

What’s in a number?

healthy living waterfall  Many of us assume when we see “the numbers,” they are absolute.  Blood pressure is indicative of this–it is expressed as systole/diastole; almost like a fraction.  Contraction/relaxation–in its simplest terms.  BMI is another example, and then there’s the scale.

Now the latter two, particularly the scale, can be a major source of frustration.  Why?  We believe numbers don’t lie.  That may be, but they don’t paint the entire picture either.  The scale is a such an example.  It reminds me of viewing a lengthy movie; the very first time.  Provided it sustains your interest, you never really catch all the nuances; until you see it a second, even a third time.

Sounds a little strange? Let me explain.

The scale may read 15-20lbs over your desired weight, because muscle outweighs fat.  While most of us realize this, it’s still a difficult reality to face, when stepping onto that numeric platform.  Scales do not differentiate between bone, muscle, fat, or even the weight of a human head.  Jim Carey illustrated this once, many moons ago on the Oprah show.  He actually weighed his head.  Turns out that head weighed 25lbs!  As you can see, the scale cares little about H20 weight gain, whether your biceps are ripping through your shirt, or the size of your head.  It simply states what the weight is, that is placed upon it.  Of course there are ways to differentiate between what’s what.  But the fact of the matter is, the scale remains the most accessible tool available.

FACE THE FLUX

Women arguably face the flux more so than men.  Our weight can fluctuate with ovulation, menstrual cycle, hormones, and even that occasional piece of lemon meringue pie, post barbecue ribs.  The question is what if anything, should we do about it?  For me, it is as simple as this–everything and nothing.

If you are consistently working out, you realize by now you may be hungrier.  Female or male, your appetite is going to be revved up.  Yes you must feed, but know when it turns to greed.  Being conscientious about it is more than half the battle.  It may take a little time to discover where hunger leaves off, and hoarding begins.  I find this particularly true of those who are eating to satiate something other than hunger.  See my post ARE YOU EATING BECAUSE OF WHAT’S EATING YOU?  If you fit into this category, realize that food is not the enemy; but it is not solace.  It’s nourishment–not comfort, nor a filler for the potholes of life.  When you place food where it belongs–as sustenance, you can orchestrate change.  No diet or exercise will do this for you; and neither will really work until you bring yourself to this conclusion.

Whether its food or alcohol laying waste your waist, you have to understand your triggers; or boomerang effect.  As a nurse, I have seen many–but they still come from the same source.  Yes stress, other people, and of course circumstances.  Yet like that boomerang you flail with all your might at the stressors of life, it returns–with equal force & intensity.  Really, only you can decide whether or not to set that force in motion.

As far as weight fluctuations in general, know we all have them.  Medications, cravings, or even pulling or pushing extra weight in the gym can effect such change.  My rule of thumb for myself and clients is 5-8lbs.  Anything over this, regardless of circumstance, gets my attention.  While I’m not professing to be anyone’s psychologist, I have no problem asking “what’s changed for better or worse, over the past 2 weeks?”  I haven’t any problem asking myself this either.

In summary, we shouldn’t be afraid of a platform stating a numeric value.  That’s all a scale really is.  We realize it cannot differentiate or discriminate.  It’s comforting to know at least one thing that can’t.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.  I will be re-posting ARE YOU EATING BECAUSE OF WHAT’S EATING YOU? shortly.

Questions? Comments?  Extra help?  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com