Strong legs are much more than beautiful. They are vital to protect heart health. We spend countless hours working on them. Most people don’t realize that the calf muscles are a pumping station designed to be a second heart.
The Heart Needs Help
Our heart is an amazing organ that pumps blood throughout our entire body with a single squeezing action. It sends oxygen to the farthest reaches of our body in a moment. There is one problem, to get the blood back to the heart, it takes more than that single pump. To get it back to the heart, the calf and ankle muscles assist the heart in circulating blood throughout your body.
Strong Legs Can Help The Problem
Our blood is returned to our hearts by venous return. The foot pump initiates the action and this occurs with each step. When the heel touches down the blood pools and as the toe touches, the blood is shot upwards. The blood then enters the soleus muscle that extends from the ankle to the back of the knee. Every time this muscle contracts, it applies pressure to the veins and helps return blood to the heart. Then the blood moves into the veins in the groin and travels through the largest vein in the body, the vena cava, to the heart. (1) This network of veins work together but none of them can do their job without a strong calf muscle.
There are one-way valves in the veins that prevent blood from flowing back to the feet when the muscles aren’t active. This is how the body fights the biggest challenge to the calf muscle pump, inactivity. When you stop moving your legs and blood pools, your heart will apply some pressure to the veins, but blood flow is drastically reduced. This predisposes you to blood clots in the deep veins. Swelling, pain, cramping and ulcers can occur. Clots can travel throughout the body. Infections in the ulcers can become systemic and present grave health risks. You’re at a greater risk of these complications if you are sedentary, stand for long periods or are overweight.
DANGER Of Not Having Strong Legs!
One study found that people with chronic heart failure have smaller calf muscles than people with fully functional hearts. This leads to overexertion during exercise. Small calf muscles are the result of muscle atrophy. David wrote an article entitled, Looking Good as We Age about that age related muscle wasting, or sarcopenia. It’s an important article that thoroughly discusses the importance of keeping your muscles strong.
Muscle atrophy is affected by diet and exercise, as discussed in David’s article. Good nutrition is mandatory but the best thing you can do for your calves is to lace up your sneakers and get moving. Walking is one of the best things that you can do to keep them strong. Get up and move for at least five minutes out of every hour. Calf raises, lunges, walking on your toes and foot pumps, simply pointing and flexing your feet will all help keep these vital muscles in good health. You can wrap a towel around the bottom of your foot, hold the ends gently and pull towards your body. This will increase blood flow in the moment. If we do nothing to prevent loss of this vital muscle, atrophy will occur with age.
Get up and get moving today, with your doctor’s permission. Taking care of your legs will improve your overall health.
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At this time of year as the weather cools down and the nights get longer, the holidays begin rapidly approaching until the next thing we know, they are right upon us. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day are supposed to be filled with love and joy with our family and friends. These days are supposed to be full of good times and cheer. A time of fellowship, a time of gift giving, a time to eat, drink and be merry. And for most of us, the holidays are exactly that. But, for anyone with heart disease—or who is at an increased risk of heart disease, the holidays instead may be a time of special risk. A joyful day may easily turn into a day of great tragedy.
Several studies have shown that during the winter holidays not only are heart problems more likely to occur but when they do, they are more likely to be fatal. The months of December and January are especially risky for people with heart disease. (1)
Imagine if you will, over the years you have been putting on weight and you have ignored your doctors admonition to lose weight simply because you feel like you are carrying it well for someone your size. You have not had any major health issues, so why worry about a little bulge at the belly, after all, you have more important things to worry about such as taking care of your family over your own needs.
It’s your life, who the hell is that doctor to tell you how to live when they are not the one paying your bills. All they need to do is shut up and give you your medicines to fix your ailments. All you wanted was medicine and not a judgmental opinion about your obesity. It’s your life, you will live it any way you see damn fit to. That is until you cannot…
Now imagine if you will, you have been working hard since sunrise, preparing to give your family a wonderful Thanksgiving or Christmas Day meal. Your adult kids and the grandchildren have arrived a few hours ago to a warm home full of love and the aroma of a baking turkey in the oven. The smells that bring back happy memories of the past when you were a young child visiting your own grand parents. The kids are all catching up with each other in the living room while the grandchildren are running all around the house bringing joy to your heart despite the fact you are feeling a bit tired now and have a case of heartburn that you have not been able to kill with antacids. And for some odd reason, your jaw aches too. But regardless of this, nothing is going to ruin your day.
You have worked hard all day in preparation of your family gathering. You awoke to a heavy, wet snow coming down, covering the ground in a thick, cold blanket. Once you got the turkey into the oven, you pulled on your snow boots, put on your heavy coat and shoveled the drive for your loved ones. And the snow kept coming down, covering the drive about as fast as you could clear it. Once you finally removed the most of the snow and spread your ice melt, you return to the kitchen and finish the final meal preparation.
What a joyous day, surrounded by loved ones. The table has been set, the delicious and hearty food has all been put out and as you begin to carve the turkey with your youngest grand daughter at your side waiting in anticipation, as you slice into the turkey, you all of a sudden feel a crushing pain in your chest and everything goes black…
My friends, if this scenario ever happens to you, if you are lucky, you will be able to go home from the hospital after a few days of tests and observations. If you are not so lucky, this may be the last day of your life.
Are your personal affairs in order?
Did you get a final chance to tell your family how much you loved them before you passed on?
Is your family going to ever live with guilt or regret that they signed a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order?
If you spend a few days in ICU, is your family going to go bankrupt trying to save your life? Even if you die, they could still go bankrupt…
Heart attack symptoms
Tightness, pressure, squeezing, stabbing, or dull pain, most often in the center of the chest
Pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, or arms
Irregular or rapid heartbeat
Cold sweat or clammy skin
Lightheadedness, weakness, or dizziness
Shortness of breath
Nausea, indigestion, and sometimes vomiting
Factors that contribute to heart attack.
Exposure to cold weather
Exposure to sudden and unusual levels of exertion, such as shoveling snow
Exposure to emotional stress, which is very common and is often fairly severe during the holidays
Becoming sedentary over the winter months
Exposure to illness, especially influenza, which can produce inflammatory changes in the blood vessels
Over-indulging in food, alcohol and/or tobacco
Exposure to indoor pollution, such as cigarette smoke, or even a poorly-drafted log-burning fireplace
Reluctance to seek medical help during the holidays
Decreased exposure to light
What to expect if you have a heart attack.
For starters, always call 911 to be transported via ambulance rather than going by car. Contrary to what you might assume, speed isn’t the only rationale. “If you’re having a heart attack, there are two reasons why you want to be in an ambulance,” says Dr. Joshua Kosowsky, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School. One is that in the unlikely event of cardiac arrest, the ambulance has the equipment and trained personnel to restart your heart. Cardiac arrest, which results from an electrical malfunction that stops the heart’s pumping ability, is fatal without prompt treatment. However, most heart attacks do not cause cardiac arrest, Dr. Kosowsky stresses. “It’s rare, but it’s certainly not a risk you want to take while you’re driving or riding in a car.” (2)
The other reason to travel via ambulance is that in many places in the United States, if a person calls 911 complaining of chest pain, the dispatcher will send paramedics who are trained to perform an electrocardiogram (ECG). This simple, painless test records your heart’s electrical activity through 12 small electrodes placed on your chest, arms, and legs. A six-second recording can then be transmitted to the receiving emergency department, which can help speed up the process of getting you the care you need.
Some people don’t experience the typical symptom of crushing chest pain during a heart attack, however, so they may hesitate to call 911. People with pain that waxes and wanes or who have subtler symptoms (such as jaw pain or shortness of breath) may show up at the emergency room on their own. Even if you do this, you’re still likely to get rapid care. The person who greets you might be a receptionist rather than a doctor or nurse, but most emergency departments follow a specific protocol for a suspected heart attack. “If you mention any symptom that sounds like it might be a heart attack, the first thing they’ll do is to get you an ECG, ideally within 10 minutes of your arrival,” says Dr. Kosowsky.
A doctor then interprets the ECG, which will reveal if you’re having a major heart attack, in which an artery feeding your heart is blocked, choking off the blood supply to part of your heart muscle. This usually creates a distinct signature on the ECG and means you’ll quickly receive treatment to open the blocked artery. (2)
But not all heart attacks show up on the first ECG. So even if it looks normal, you’re still not out of the woods, says Dr. Kosowsky. The next step is an evaluation by a doctor or other clinician, who will ask about your medical history and details about the location, duration, and intensity of your symptoms. You’ll also have a blood test to measure troponin, a protein that rises in response to heart muscle damage. This blood test is very sensitive. But keep in mind that elevated levels don’t always show up right away. That’s why doctors sometimes have people stay for several hours to get a follow-up troponin measurement.
Other possible tests include a chest x-ray to look for alternative causes of chest discomfort, such as pneumonia or heart failure. A doctor also might give you a trial of medication to see whether it relieves your symptoms, and additional ECGs may be performed over time.
Often, if several troponin tests come back normal, the doctor may want to check your risk of a future heart attack with an exercise stress test. This test can reveal how your heart responds to the demands of increased blood flow needed during exercise. During a standard exercise test, you walk on a treadmill at progressively faster speeds, while trained staff monitors your heart’s electrical activity, your heart rate, and your blood pressure.
An imaging test may also be performed to quantify the degree of blood flow to the heart. One option is an echocardiogram, a noninvasive test that involves placing an ultrasound probe on your chest to create a moving image of your beating heart. Restricted blood flow in the heart’s arteries changes the movement of the heart, which an experienced echocardiographer can detect.
Another option is a nuclear perfusion test, which entails injecting a radioactive substance called a tracer into a vein. The tracer then travels through your blood to your heart. A special camera that records the radioactive particles emitted from the tracer circles around the heart, taking images from multiple angles. A computer then combines these images to create a detailed picture of the blood flow to the heart.
In certain situations, if the source of your symptoms remains unclear, a physician might order a computed tomography angiography (CTA) scan. For this test, you receive an injection of a contrast dye into your arm or hand. The dye “lights up” in an image to reveal a three-dimensional view of your heart’s arteries, courtesy of multiple rapid-fire x-rays taken during the scan.
Sometimes, even after all the testing, doctors don’t know for certain what’s causing your chest pain. “If that’s the case, it’s still worth asking the doctor what his or her best guess is, because that will help you determine what next steps to take,” says Dr. Kosowsky. (2)
Common treatment procedures for heart attack.
Angioplasty: Special tubing with an attached deflated balloon is threaded up to the coronary arteries.
Angioplasty, Laser: Similar to angioplasty except that the catheter has a laser tip that opens the blocked artery.
Artificial heart valve surgery: Replaces an abnormal or diseased heart valve with a healthy one.
Atherectomy: Similar to angioplasty except that the catheter has a rotating shaver on its tip to cut away plaque from the artery.
Bypass surgery: Treats blocked heart arteries by creating new passages for blood to flow to your heart muscle.
Cardiomyoplasty: An experimental procedure in which skeletal muscles are taken from a patient’s back or abdomen.
Heart transplant: Removes a diseased heart and replaces it with a donated healthy human heart.
Minimally invasive heart surgery: An alternative to standard bypass surgery.
Radiofrequency ablation: A catheter with an electrode at its tip is guided through the veins to the heart muscle to destroy carefully selected heart muscle cells in a very small area.
Stent procedure: A stent is a wire mesh tube used to prop open an artery during angioplasty.
Transmyocardial revascularization (TMR): A laser is used to drill a series of holes from the outside of the heart into the heart’s pumping chamber.
Reduce your risk of heart attack through healthy nutritional practices coupled with exercise that is approved by your doctor. Do it for yourself, do it for your loved ones. You might believe that your life is yours to live as you see fit. However, never forget that someone is going to have to pick up the broken pieces behind you when your health fails or when you pass on. Taking care of your health is only the right thing to do. Doing otherwise is a selfish act that only serves to cause pain and hurt in your loved ones at a later time and place. Be well, embrace your loved ones and love them like there is no tomorrow. You never know, there may be no tomorrow for you.
David’s Way to Health and Fitness now has a support group on Facebook for those want to lose or manage their weight, and also for those who are interested in healthy living practices. Just look for David’s Way to Health and Fitness and join us. We are a private group in order to protect your privacy.
Last week, a lifelong friend of mine had a heart attack at 56 years old. He went to the doctor for a stress test of his heart and did not pass. He had a heart attack while on the treadmill and was wheeled straight into emergency surgery where it was discovered he had a 99.9 percent blockage. Thankfully he was in a hospital already and the doctors were able to put in a place a stent to save his life. If he had been home or on the job, this could very well have been the sad end to a good man and a great tragedy to his family and friends who all love him dearly.
Take action now!
This concept is not rocket science; no matter what you might think, a healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease. This concept is nowhere near as hard as you may believe it to be! You do not have to die young and cause pain and anguish to your family and friends, you can make smart choices to change the overall pattern of your choices that will make improve your heart health. Make the simple steps below part of your life for long-term benefits to your health and your heart:
Quit consuming excess, empty calories and lose some weight!
Start by knowing how many calories you should be eating and drinking to maintain your weight. Nutrition and calorie information on food labels is typically based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. You can learn your daily caloric needs simply by going to our Calorie Counter Pro menu where you simply enter your age, gender, weight, and activity level to see how many calories per day you need for your goals whether they are weight loss, gain, or maintenance.
If you are trying not to gain weight, don’t eat more calories than you know you can burn up every day. This is a simple concept, eat more than you burn, and you gain weight. This is true for everyone. By eating only 500 calories per day in excess of your caloric needs, you will gain one pound of fat per week. Conversely, if you eat 500 calories less than you need, you will lose that one pound of fat.
Increase the amount and intensity of your doctor approved physical activity to burn more calories.
Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (or an equal combination of both) each week. What ever you do, do not over rate the intensity of your exercise in order to be able to eat more. We have seen it time and again where people will rate their physical activity as intense when it was moderate at best. To rate your intensity remember this:
Intense exercise will have our heart pounding hard and you will not be able to breath or speak. The odds of you doing this for more than a minute or two if you are not a trained athlete are very slim.
Moderate intensity is where your heart rate is elevated and your breathing is deep and hard, but you can still carry on a labored conversation. This is a great zone to be in as this where fat burning takes place. It takes the average person twenty minutes to burn through their glycogen stores before burning fat, so try to go at it for at least 30 minutes at a time.
Low intensity means your heart rate is not elevated and you can breath and speak easy. While this is better than sitting on the couch, you should work yourself up to where you can enter the moderate intensity zone.
Make everything you eat count towards good health!
You may be eating plenty of food to satisfy your immediate hunger, but that is not enough. Being full does not equate your body getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Nutrient-rich foods have minerals, protein, whole grains and other nutrients but are lower in calories. They help you control your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.
Quit eating calorie dense, low nutrition foods!
The right number of calories to eat each day is based on your age and physical activity level and whether you’re trying to gain, lose or maintain your weight. You could use your daily allotment of calories on a few high-calorie foods and beverages, but you are not likely to get the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. Do not waste your calories on sugar filled junk foods that will only serve to drive you crazy with cravings for more later in the day. Eliminate, or greatly reduce foods and beverages high in calories but low in nutrients in your diet. Also limit the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium you eat. Read nutrition labels on your food choices very carefully – the Nutrition Facts panel tells you the amount of healthy and unhealthy nutrients are in a food or beverage.
Eat a variety of fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and fruits without high-calorie sauces or added salt and sugars. Replace high-calorie foods with fruits and vegetables.
Choose fiber-rich whole grains for most grain servings.
Choose poultry and fish without skin and prepare them in healthy ways without added saturated and trans fat. If you choose to eat meat, look for the leanest cuts available and prepare them in healthy and delicious ways.
Eat a variety of fish at least twice a week, especially fish containing omega-3 fatty acids (for example, salmon, trout and herring).
Select fat-free (skim) and low-fat (1%) dairy products.
Avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.
Limit saturated fat and trans fat and replace them with the better fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. If you need to lower your blood cholesterol, reduce saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6 percent of total calories. For someone eating 2,000 calories a day, that’s about 13 grams of saturated fat.
Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars.
Choose foods with less sodium and prepare foods with little or no salt. To lower blood pressure, aim to eat no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Reducing daily intake to 1,500 mg is desirable because it can lower blood pressure even further. If you can’t meet these goals right now, even reducing sodium intake by 1,000 mg per day can benefit blood pressure.
If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. That means no more than one drink per day if you’re a woman and no more than two drinks per day if you’re a man.
Follow the American Heart Association recommendations when you eat out, and keep an eye on your portion sizes. (1)
Do yourself and your family a favor and get your health together today. Follow us here at David’s Way to Health and Fitness, we freely provide all the information you need to live a healthy life. Subscription is free and easy, join us today and get each of our new articles straight to your email inbox. Please feel free to comment or ask questions in either our comments section or privately through our contact menu. We answer everyone and encourage conversation!
The stress of caregiving induces intense feelings of being overwhelmed, loneliness, isolation and a feeling of being deserted by others. The stress may manifest by sleeping too much or too little, gaining or losing weight, chronic exhaustion, losing interest in things that you normally enjoy and getting easily irritated or angered or feeling worried or sad. You may have headaches or body aches often.
While some may argue that these symptoms are within your control, that they are perception based, there are diagnosable, measurable health problems that accompany caregiving. Depression and anxiety are common among caregivers and they can contribute to the development of heart disease and stroke. Caregivers frequently have weaker immune systems which may manifest by longer recovery times from colds or the flu. The longer the flu hangs onto you, the more likely you are to develop complications. An estimated 80,000 people died from flu and it’s complications in 2017. A weakened immune sysytem can be deadly. Obesity is common among caregivers and obesity increases your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes as well as many other health problems. Without a doubt, caregivers are at a greater risk for developing short-term memory problems and problems with focus. This can lead to a multitude of woes including accidents.
Take care to take care of yourself when you find yourself being a caregiver. Take full advantage of any classes or home health care offered by hospitals or government agencies and lighten your load. There are sometimes adult daycare facilities that can give you a much needed break.
Make a list of ways that others can help you and if someone offers help, be quick to give them an assignment. There are support groups for almost all illnesses, that offer caregiver assistance. Find those groups and get involved to reap any benefits that they may have to offer.
Get organized. Chaos is stress-inducing. Make lists and set up a daily routine. Make sure to include time for yourself to take care of you in your scheduling. Do the things that you once enjoyed. Plan your meals and get enough sleep. Work out with your doctor’s permission. A good workout does wonders for stress. When you visit your doctor make sure to tell him that you are a caregiver and about any problems that you are having. You might consider taking advantage of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act which, if you are eligible, ensures that you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave of absence to care for relatives.
I strongly encourage you to give up added sugars and other simple carbohydrates. A little sugar makes you crave more sugar and all those empty calories will pack on the pounds and take your appetite away for healthy, whole foods which are your best source of good nutrition.
As always, we encourage you to make your world small. Cut out negative people and events that rob your time and make you feel bad. Surround yourself with positivity and focus on the things that make your life better. I frequently say that “Lifting (weights) is my life.” That’s true. Choose what you love. Do it and do it to the best of your ability. Learn it. Live it. It will give you a much needed mental break. If someone or something makes you feel bad, don’t go around them. Why would you? Life’s too short for drama. If the person that you’re caregiving works against your best efforts to help them, let it be. There’s an old saying that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink, and that’s true. After you have done all you can, if you see the patient working against himself, don’t stress over it. It’s his choice. You have done your part. Don’t be a martyr by stressing yourself into a heart attack trying to force someone to be healthy that is bound and determined to do otherwise.
I am a caregiver to an adult with autism and have been a caregiver to my elderly grandmother who is gone now. Although Maw Maw was a wonderfully selfless person for most of her life, when she became dependent on others, that changed. She made every effort to commandeer my time, including having me cancel my own doctor’s appointments. I had a few then because it was before I came to David’s Way and was able to lose fat and come off of all medications. Don’t let your loved ones do this to you. Stand up for yourself and tend to your needs first. You can’t help them if you’re dead. During that time, my weight soared and my blood pressure spiraled out of control. After coming to David’s Way, I realized exactly where I had gone wrong. I did not caregive myself first. I was an avid swimmer at the beginning of that time with her and I had abandoned the pool. My misery knew no end until I made up my mind to regain what was fast becoming my lost health. Now, I work three jobs, take no medications, pursue extreme health and fitness with a fury and make no apologies for taking care of myself. People all around me are dropping dead and developing serious health problems while I carry on with life as usual. I use the most powerful tool in the world to be fit and healthy, the choices that I make every day.
I challenge you to do the same and pursue health with a passion.
Do you have a running reel of negative thoughts and possible catastrophic outcomes playing constantly in your head? So many people do. When we allow negative thoughts to loop continually we are causing a constant release of cortisol, our major stress hormone to be released. The health implications of this are huge. High cortisol levels cause inflammation which lies at the base of almost all major health problems, including heart disease and even some cancers. Skin problems, gastrointestinal issues and depression are often exacerbated by this one habit that is within our control.
People who display optimism tend to have better immune function which affects all disease processes. Learn to control those inner voices of doom to improve your overall health and enjoy your life so much more.
It’s necessary to assess your thoughts. If a large majority of your thoughts tend to be negative then you are probably catastrophizing. Do you focus only on the negative? Do you ignore the possible positive outcomes in a given situation? If so, then it’s necessary to take action to think in more positive ways.
Humor is a powerful tool in learning to lighten up. I refuse to listen to or watch anything that makes me feel bad. Life can be difficult on the best days so why add negative input from negative people who are bent on creating drama? Avoid those people and control your environment to remove negative input from real life people and media. Seek out funny and enlightening media when you are surfing the net or watching T.V. Leave the sad, violent and scary stuff alone. It won’t do anything good.
Get some exercise, with your doctor’s permission. Vigorous exercise can produce endorphins which not only make you feel better in the moment but have a positive impact on the brain that makes you feel more able to cope in the long run. You will develop a better body in the process and that always helps our state of mind.
Negative thoughts can lead to binge eating. Binge eating will almost always keep you from your weight management goals.
Eat a well balanced, healthy diet with adequate amounts of healthy fats such as those found in salmon or walnuts. Avoid sugar because it is a source of empty, excess calories. Sugar will cause you to crave more sugar and eventually forego healthy foods for junk. Your brain has to have proper nutrition to perform optimally. As you eat more and more sugar, the pounds will pile on which will most likely add to your anxiety and depression. Just say “No!”
If your negative thinking is chronic and debilitating you might consider professional counseling. A licensed therapist can guide you into a better way of thinking that can benefit both body and mind.
Surround yourself with positive people and create a life that you love. With time and deliberation and sometimes professional help, you can pull out of the habit of negativity. Your happiness is worth the work.
In the same light as our children can drive us crazy with less than intelligent life decisions and defiance, I bet our doctors must go stark raving mad with many of their patients. Think about this; every doctors office across this vast country gets inundated every day with waiting rooms packed full of patients who are ill with self induced maladies that can be prevented through proper nutrition and a little bit of regular exercise.
Joey Bagofdonuts visits his physician’s office on a regular basis with obesity related health issues, and no matter how much his doctor tries to explain how a healthier lifestyle will help Mr. Bagofdonuts, poor Joey continues on with his poor lifestyle choices, hoping his doctor will always be able to fix his health mistakes for him with medicines. Mr. Bagofdonuts, despite being an adult, is little different than a petulant child who always demands that his mother pick up his broken pieces when the game goes bad for him. Mommy then rewards Little Joey with a sweet treat instead of holding him accountable and he has learned nothing, he will go on making poor choices regarding his health. As long as there is a pill to make him feel better, Joey will never be accountable to himself. Folks, if your doctor informs you with information to straighten out your health, it is incumbent that you take the advice to heart instead of being like that petulant child. Medicines and medical procedures are not sweet treats to make you feel good in the moment only to go on about your normal business. No, they are about getting you better so you can go on with a healthier life once you get better. As what happens to millions of adults every day, Mr. Bagofdonuts eventually ends up with life threatening heart issues or any of many other ailments tied to poor nutrition. It is a shame that with all the information in the world available to us in the palm of our hands, as a nation we are the fattest and least healthy of any of our preceding generations. And this, all despite our advances in medical technology.
What is Hyperinsulinemia?
Hyperinsulinemia, is a condition tied to obesity in which there are excess levels of insulin circulating in the blood relative to the level of glucose. While it is often mistaken for diabetes, hyperinsulinemia can result from a variety of metabolic diseases and conditions. Hyperinsulinemia is also associated with hypertension, glucose intolerance and dyslipidemia. Collectively, these conditions are known as Metabolic Syndrome. Treatment is typically achieved via diet and exercise, if only the patient will actually do it. Metformin, a diabetes drug, may be used to reduce insulin levels in some obese patients (typically where obesity is present). However, a healthy diet that is low in simple sugars and processed carbohydrates, high in fiber, and protein is often recommended. Again, as with exercise, this treatment is only good if the patient is compliant.
Hyperinsulinemia and Heart Disease
There are two different diseases which get called “heart disease”. One is Coronary Artery Disease which involves damage to your arteries which lead out of the chambers of your heart, and that feed the muscle of the walls of your heart. The other condition is Coronary Heart Disease which involves damage to the heart itself. It is also known as Ischemic Heart Disease.
Most of the time, Coronary Artery Disease will occur before Coronary Heart disease. The good news is that Coronary Artery Disease can be halted and reversed before your heart itself becomes diseased.
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease develops when the major blood vessels that supply your heart with blood, oxygen and nutrients (coronary arteries) become damaged or diseased. Cholesterol-containing deposits (plaque) in your arteries and inflammation are usually to blame for coronary artery disease.
When plaque builds up, it narrows your coronary arteries, decreasing blood flow to your heart. Eventually, the decreased blood flow may cause chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, or other coronary artery disease signs and symptoms. A complete blockage can cause a heart attack.
Because coronary artery disease often develops over decades, you might not notice a problem until you have a significant blockage or a heart attack.
There are methods you can do for yourself to prevent yourself from getting Coronary Artery Disease in the first place. Each of these methods are in your hands at zero cost if only you choose to make the commitment to yourself:
Eat healthy foods.
Lose excess weight.
If you need to, but choose not to make healthy lifestyle decisions, Coronary Artery Disease will involve three critical changes.
“Change 1” will be the thickening and narrowing of your arteries. Arteriosclerosis will begin when fatty streaks begin to appear on the walls of your arteries. As the artery walls thicken, the inside diameter of your arteries will become reduced which will have a direct impact on the flow of your blood. This thickening of your arteries is a result of an accumulation of cholesterol and other fats that form plaque.
If you believe that because you are not diabetic, therefore you have no worries about insulin, guess again.
Insulin signals the arterial walls to absorb cholesterol from your blood. When you eat a bunch of sugar laden crap that spikes your insulin and keeps it high all day, every day, you suffer great risk of heart disease and or heart attack. When your blood sugar and insulin levels are out of whack, your body has a more difficult time in healing itself. Sometimes, arteries narrow as a result of your body’s attempt to repair tiny blood vessel injuries. Sometimes, small spontaneous hemorrhages can occur as a result of high insulin. As a result, small fibrous plaques may begin to form. If these become calcified, you then have Hardening of the Arteries, or Arteriosclerosis. To compound this problem, insulin will stimulate cell growth. When your insulin levels are high, the walls of your blood vessels are continually bathed with this excess, the resultant cell growth reduces the inside diameter of your blood vessels where your blood flows through your body. Think of the difference in how well a skinny straw works as opposed to a big straw when trying to drink a thick milkshake. Do you want this happening inside of your blood vessels?
“Change 2” happens when your liver produces more cholesterol as a result of high levels of insulin. Many people do not realize his, but 75% of the cholesterol in your blood is produced by your liver (endogenous cholesterol) and only 25% comes from the foods in your diet (exogenous cholesterol). The type produced by your own liver is much more dangerous to your health than the cholesterol you pick up from eating eggs and such. As insulin prompts your liver to produce an excess of cholesterol extra material for plaque formation within your blood vessels is provided. As this cholesterol produced plaque grows, your arteries continue to become more and more choked off.
“Change 3” The third change which occurs from hyperinsulinemia, or high levels of insulin production, is your body reduces its ability to destroy a cement like substance called fibrin which holds the arterial plaque together in much the same way Portland Cement bonds sand and gravel together to create concrete. When you exercise and consume a healthy diet, your body naturally destroys fibrin. With little to no fibrin, your blood will flow freely throughout your body.
When you eat a nutritionally poor diet and are sedentary, the high levels of insulin present in your body will help create greater levels of fibrin. The result is you will have an increased risk now of your blood forming a clot that will not be able to pass through your narrowed and plaque choked blood vessels. As blood flow becomes reduced to your heart, it will not receive the nourishment and oxygen it requires in order to thrive. At this point, you have now entered into Coronary Heart Disease. Sadly you could have prevented this from ever occurring in the first place if you had only made smarter decisions regarding your dietary habits and made it a point to exercise at least a little bit on a regular basis. Once you have reached this “point of no return” the damage is done and no one is going to be able to pick up the broken pieces for you.
Face it, when we eat a poor diet of calorie dense, low nutrition foods every day, we are doing ourselves harm. Indirectly, we are also causing harm to all of our loved ones too. When we choose to be lazy and to eat foods that are laden with added sugar, simple carbohydrates, preservatives, high levels of sodium and unhealthy fats, we are living in the moment like a child who cannot see past the end of their nose, much less twenty to thirty years into their future, if even that long. When see and hear commercials for this gluttonous lifestyle where portions are constantly growing with our mid sections, we never see the end results often until it is far too late. You can prevent the occurrence of Coronary Artery Disease and even reverse the effects through making a personal choice to be healthy. Once this disease has progressed to Coronary Heart Disease, you are living on borrowed time, where a heart attack can be likely to occur at an given time. We all know that when a heart attack happens, their will be no need for seeing into tomorrow. There will no longer be a need for medicines or medical procedures. While your family is feeling the pain of grieving and making your funeral plans, you will never have a bad day again to worry about.
Make wise decisions with your health and turn your ship around before it is too late.
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Most people never consider vein health as being anything more than a vanity issue. While varicose veins are not pretty, the aesthetics involved here is a lesser issue. Your veins are the way that your blood gets back to your heart after it is pumped throughout your body. When the veins are not healthy you can develop health problems that can be fatal. Deep vein thrombosis is a medical word for blood clot. When the veins fail, blood clots are more likely to occur because the blood pools. A blood clot that travels throughout your body can be a very dangerous situation. Pulmonary embolism, or a blood clot in your lung can cause sudden death.
Overweight and Obese, Again
Overweight and obesity can contribute to your likelihood of developing vein disease. Eat a healthy diet that includes foods rich in vitamin E that helps prevent the platelets from sticking together in your blood. Nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, pumpkin, mangos, dark leafy greens and fish are good vitamin E sources. Include foods that contain significant amounts of vitamin C. It helps keep the collagen in your veins healthy and plentiful. Broccoli, strawberries, cauliflower, pineapple, dark, leafy greens, brussels sprouts, oranges and bell peppers are all high in vitamin C. Count your calories to insure that you are not overeating and shed those extra pounds. You can use the Calorie Counter Pro to determine your caloric needs
Exercise regularly with your doctor’s permission. Mix up your daily activity and divide your time between sitting and standing as much as possible. If you drive long distances, stop as often as possible and walk around. You want to keep the blood flowing. Wear clothing that does not constrict your circulation, especially around your waist and thighs. Avoid wearing high heels for long periods of time. Eat plenty of fiber with foods like popcorn, oatmeal, brown rice, leafy greens, broccoli, avocado, chia and lentils. Avoid excess sodium because it will cause fluid retention which will make it harder for your blood to flow through your veins.
Hydrate well to keep your fluid level healthy. An optimum fluid balance will help keep your veins performing properly. Sip on water throughout the day to encourage vein health. Our veins are affected by our capillary exchange, the fluid balancing system in our bodies. Most health authorities advise the 8×8 rule for fluid balance, which is, “Drink 8, 8 ounce glasses of water per day.” There are extenuating circumstances here. You may have different advice from your doctor, follow it. Common sense must also prevail. If you are working out hard in a hot environment, you certainly may require more.
Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan
With a little planning and minimal effort, you can help keep your veins performing better. If you have signs and symptoms of vein disease, such as varicose veins, swelling or discoloration in your legs, pain in your legs, warmth in your legs or restless leg syndrome, see your physician.The implications of vein disease are serious, possibly life-threatening. At the very least, the pain and discomfort from vein disease can be debilitating. Take care of yourself and enjoy being active for your entire life
I first heard that phrase about 20 years ago and had absolutely no idea about what it was supposed to be. Turns out that there were people around me who believed that bad traits passed from one generation to another by some mystical means other than just genetics. True, there are some tendencies that are familial and some outright inherited maladies, but they are few and far between. Almost all of the negative health and life issues that we have are a direct result of the choices that we make, not genetics, and certainly not some mystical, spiritual curse. Believing this falsehood is simply an excuse to under achieve and fail at life. Believing this is an excuse to abandon all effort to be responsible for the health choices that you make. Mom became diabetic at age 40? If that’s the case, it’s Mom’s choices that caused it. Make different choices. I had an Aunt who died a terrible death from throat cancer. I loved her. She was my favorite Aunt. She smoked, a lot, and never quit. Do her children have a similar risk? Possibly, they also smoke and the genetics are secondary compared to that decision.
Is It Learned?
There is a state of mind called “Learned Helplessness” that is believed to occur when someone is exposed to traumatic events that they cannot control. Over time, the individual “learns” that he cannot control events around himself and simply doesn’t try. Feeling that we can’t control traumatic events leads to loss of motivation to the extent that even when we are presented with the opportunity to change the course of our lives, we may not take advantage of the opportunity. This “loser” state of mind cripples the individual in decision making because he feels that his decisions won’t make a difference. Feeling helpless in the face of trauma and unable or unwilling to change the course of action by deciding to take control, leads to depression in most people with learned helplessness. This is a deadly personality trait when we are faced with decisions concerning our health.
Is It A Decision?
In the original experiments on this topic, it was discovered that dogs who did not try to avoid negative stimuli had not, however, learned helplessness. They had not learned control. (1)The difference is profound. In order to “learn” helplessness, or the lack of control, we must first decide to take control and then be unable to do so. If an individual is afraid of failure simply because that’s all they have ever seen or been exposed to, then they have not made a decision to break that consecutive chain of failure, dysfunction and sickness that may have existed in their family for generations. They have not learned helplessness, they simply have not learned control. Therein is the problem.
I remember when I actually believed that “skinny” girls were just genetically gifted. Never mind that my Mother, who was 5’7″ and about 110 pounds, ate very little and almost never sat down. For some strange reason, I ignored the obvious. Truth be known, it was easier to believe that she had great genes, that were somehow vastly different from mine, than to see the truth of the matter. While I would binge on brownies at every chance, she might eat one, maybe not even one. While I preferred the life of a sloth, she was a busy bee. I have mentioned “Janice” a few times. She was a lovely girl, close to my age in my 20’s who had a rock star body. While I struggled to fit into a size 12 or 14, Janice was a lithe size 5 or 7. Guess what. I finally ask her what she ate. She showed me a tray of freshly cut vegetables in her fridge and she told me that she ate those veggies all the time and seldom got hungry between meals. I was at her house for meals. They were healthy meals of grilled lean meats and veggies, fruit for dessert and no munchies at the parties unless you wanted the fresh veggies. She did not deviate and was not swayed by the negative comments of those around her concerning her diet. She was in control. So was my Mom. Both Janice and my Mom had obese Mothers. They had made a conscious choice to take control, to do better than their upbringing. Genetics be damned.
What would your life be like if you decide, right now, to take control over the things that you have refused to exercise control over until this moment in time? Would you be different tomorrow? What about this time next year? Would you still eat the same things, smoke, drink alcohol and hang out with the same people? Remember, if someone doesn’t encourage you to be healthy, they are not your friend and do not have your best interest at heart. I challenge you. Exercise your ability to create your life and take control today. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
I cannot fathom the reasoning that goes into ones thought process when they state they do not do healthy. I have heard this enough over the years I actually wrote an article about it which I titled, I Don’t Do Healthy and Other Dumb Quotes.
Honestly, I have a difficult time getting past such an absurd mindset. Yet I know it is not uncommon. The mind set delves further into the absurd when it is coming from who is obese and suffering from many self inflicted ailments that require constant medical attention. Not that I have, or will ask this, but sometimes it makes me wonder if they are really this dumb, or just want me to believe they are. After all, who are they hurting with their obstinence?
Who they are hurting might just be you if you are the one who will be picking up all the shattered and broken pieces of their lives one day.
Is it really too much effort to take care of yourself before your body decides to fight back with ailments and or disease?
It does not take rocket science to know and fully understand that exercise is good for our bodies. Even if you suffer from DOM’s (delayed onset muscle soreness) for your first few days of an exercise regimen, your body is liking that it is being worked as it was meant to be. Too many lay about licking their wounds, wanting a doctor to just prescribe them something to stop the sickness, the aches and pains, and the early aging. Yet, you have the power within yourself to put a stop to most of this without ever stepping foot in a doctors office.
It is proven science that as we age, exercise will help mitigate the frailty and diseases that come from a sedentary lifestyle. The more fit your body, the longer you will live a quality life. If you want to live a life of laying about the house eating cookies and cakes while binge watching your favorite program on the television, then you will likely die younger than you need to, while being a miserable individual in your final years on earth. It really is as simple a concept as this, and no one can scientifically argue against the benefits of physical exercise.
Invest in yourself!
Make an inexpensive investment into your future that will pay big dividends for quality of life as you age. Begin investing when you are young, and before you get too far out of shape. Even if you are obese and out of shape, get your butt up off the couch and move it with a purpose. Once you begin getting into better shape, you will live a more active life that will make you feel and look younger. Exercise is going to make daily life functions much easier and simpler. There will not have to be any thinking about how hard it will be to climb the steps in your home. You will have an easier time carrying in your groceries. Best of all, you will be able to live a fuller life where you can actually enjoy doing outside activities with your grandchildren. And you will be able to do these things without gasping for air every few minutes or having to constantly sit down to rest. By exercising at enough aerobic intensity to get your heart rate elevated, by strength training and stretching, you are going to improve your functional fitness, which is going to improve your life for you and your loved ones. You will no longer rain on your kids, or grandchildren’s parades anymore by sitting out every activity they might want you to be involved with them in.
Good exercise can and will give you a boost in energy. If you are lethargic in the afternoons, you can easily turn this around with a brisk walk and simple stretching. This will aid in getting your more blood pumping to your brain. At night, you will find that sleep will improve and come easier than it did when you were fat and out of shape. Your body will have true fatigue and your stress levels will have fallen as a result of a good bout of vigorous exercise. This is good since as we age, our periods of deep sleep will often shorten, which translates into less restful sleep.
Being as physical exercise essentially resets the brain, you will find that you have become a calmer individual than you might have been before. Exercise reduces our stress levels immensely. It helps to keep our blood pressure lower during stressful situations. If you are a couch potato, your blood pressure will rise quicker and higher than a normal weight, fit individual. This benefit is one of great quality as it allows you to remain better focused on the difficult tasks life often hands to us.
Exercise helps with chronic pain and helps relieve menopausal hot flashes. After a few short weeks with an exercise regimen you notice that your self esteem has improved as you achieve your new fitness goals, and of course, as you begin to feel healthier. you will find that an active life style will work wonders with your mood as it is known to release endorphins, or the feel good brain chemicals in your brain. Have you ever heard of runners high? I can tell you it is absolutely real, and it damn sure feels good.
Getting your heart healthy.
Any type of exercise is going to be better for your heart health than sitting on your couch all day doing nothing of substance. By getting your body moving with some intensity, you will strengthen your heart, which is absolutely going to make you feel better. Your heart will beat with less effort and your arterial walls will be more supple, thereby reducing your risk of heart disease. Moderate exercise that burns 1200 to 1600 calories per week will improve your cholesterol profile by raising your HDL (good cholesterol) and preventing the oxidation of your LDL (bad cholesterol) which if left unchecked, will cause your LDL to stick to the walls of your arteries.
This is a topic I love! The American Heart Association has come to the conclusion that lifting weights is one of the best things you can do for your heart. Strength training lowers your cholesterol, reduces blood pressure, and improves your overall cardiovascular fitness. Your glucose metabolism becomes more efficient, which lowers your risk of diabetes and your ratio of muscle to fat will be increased which means your metabolism will be more efficient at burning off body fat. The importance of having a low bod fat to lean muscle percentage is the fact lean muscle burns more calories than your body fat ever will, and it does this even when you are sitting down resting. When people ask me if I do much cardio, I always tell them that weight training done right, is cardio.
Greater lung capacity.
After the age of 25, there is a 1% decline in lung capacity that occurs every year unless you do something about it with aerobic activity. This lung capacity, known as your VO-2, will typically increase by 6 to 20% with aerobic conditioning, and can go as high as a 50% increase. When you can breath better, you live better. Only a fool would argue this. As your lung capacity improves, oxygen enters your lungs more efficiently and the carbon dioxide waste, leaves more rapidly. By increasing your lung volume, you are increasing the quality of your life. You will be able to function without getting winded so easily.
Benefits, head to toes.
You do not need any expensive gym memberships or high tech fitness gadgets to get yourself into good physical condition. All you need is your doctors clearance and a will to get yourself active. By simply walking 30 minutes per day, you will begin reaping many benefits to your body and soul. From arthritis to weight gain, good vigorous exercise will help mitigate many medical issues in your life. The investment in a pair of sneakers and a comfortable outfit to exercise in is far cheaper than unnecessary medical bills brought about by an unhealthy diet and sedentary life. Strong muscles in your thighs will help reduce the risk of arthritis in your knees. Women can reduce their risk of diabetes by half.
It is a well established fact that exercise boosts your body’s immune system function. And you do not have to work out every day to enjoy the many health benefits. I have read of a study where it was found that people who exercised moderately for 30 minutes, only 6 times per month outlived those with a sedentary lifestyle by a 43% margin. When it comes to quality of life and longevity, staying physically fit is the best investment you can make in yourself.
Invest into your own future wisely. You will have no regrets.
Often, when we think of heart issues we never consider insulin and it’s role in heart health. Usually, when we think of insulin the first thing that comes to mind is diabetes. And here in lies a huge problem, most people who are over weight or obese will not think of themselves as having a true health issue with their weight when they have not developed diabetes. This thinking is foolhardy and comes from a lack of knowledge. Besides the effect on your body with insulin and whether you have diabetes or not, the powerful role insulin plays in your body has great effects that can lead to high blood pressure, risk-related blood fat levels, weight gain, atherosclerosis, peripheral vascular disease, and heart disease in a great number of overweight or obese individuals who have never been diagnosed as being diabetic.
Insulin and Glucagon must be in balance!
In a healthy body, insulin does not like to be used up. It has been referred to as the “Saver Hormone” This miserly nature of insulin is no easy task when you consider how some of us eat and live sedentary lifestyles. Insulin must meet multiple demands by the body such as appeals for energy to enable muscles to maintain their health and viability, to fuel our nervous system, and to keep our organs under constant repair to keep our body’s ability to function normally. Insulin will try to make your body store it’s energy stores, by converting carbohydrates into fat which is then stored inside of your cells, it must give up some of it’s food energy in order to get us through our basic daily living functions.
The second part of this equation which must be kept in balance with insulin is glucagon, or what is referred to as your body’s “Spending Hormone”. Most of us have heard of insulin, but I would guess that many, if not most of you, have never heard of glucagon. The balance between these two are just as insulin directs food energy into our cells, glucagon is what brings it back out of the cells in order to repair and fuel your body in between meals. This balance must be maintained and crappy dietary habits makes this task difficult.
A bad diet that does not meet all of our nutritional needs will quite obviously throw our hormonal balance out of whack. Although, as evident by the rampant obesity in our society, many will destroy their own health when there is a better choice to be made in living healthy with a good clean diet. It does not have to be this way, but many will still choose the lame way out with a diet of junk and fast foods and place their hormonal balance into a tail spin and then complain they cannot lose their weight.
If you choose to make good dietary habits a lifestyle that keeps your hormonal balance on an even keel, insulin and glucagon fully compliment each other and maintain a perfect harmony. Making this harmony occur is fully within your control, it will make you feel so much better. As insulin rises, it makes you want to eat, it helps with fueling your body. What energy is not used gets put away into your fat cells. Later, as your insulin levels fall off, glucagon begins to rise. The glucagon opens the fat cells up and the energy that is released is burned to keep your body running efficiently, as it was designed to do. After a period, insulin once again begins to rise and the whole cycle repeats itself.
This natural balance is 100% within our control when we make the personal choice to make it so. Do not sell yourself short, ever!
When you make the lame choice for yourself to eat bad every day of your life, no matter your excuses, you are going to put this hormonal balance between insulin and glucagon out of kilter. The reasons why you eat a poor diet are not relevant to this reality. When you manage to get your hormonal balance off, there becomes a battle between the hormones that will put your heart health, or even your life at risk.
Although insulin and glucagon are to be in balance for good health, insulin is a more powerful hormone than it’s counterpart. Insulin will completely take over if you let it. When insulin is released into your blood, glucagon takes a submissive role and diminishes significantly. Glucagon will only rise back up once the insulin levels begin to fall again.
When you subsist on sweet treats and foods with added sugars, you insulin levels will always remain high! You do have control over what you eat! No excuse is going to fix your health. period.
Insulin’s dominance over glucagon is not all bad. In pre-historic times, when our ancestors had a surplus of food, insulin was needed in order to channel as much of the food in the fat cells as possible. Unlike us in the modern world, our ancestors did not always know where their next meal was coming from. And to make matters worse, their foods were not anywhere near as energy rich as our foods of today. Our ancestors had to fatten themselves up because they did not always know where or when their next meal would be coming to them. Insulin would get our ancestors to eat as much as they could so they could get the most out of the foods they were able to consume.
We no longer live in those times folks. Food is now abundant!
Now, on the other hand for our ancestors, food was not always available. In fact, famine can still be rampant in different parts of the world today. When our body requires energy, glucagon opens the fat cells and brings out the energy that has been stored. This energy fuels our muscles, brain and other organs to go out and get more nourishment. For our ancestors, when food was not readily available, insulin’s fat storing ability was not required. Our ancestors were not fat for the most part.
In days past, insulin kept us alive. In our modern world today where we might gorge and junk foods that keep our insulin levels high, this can actually kill us over time or even rapidly.
Currently, we still have to keep our hormones in balance and we can do this through good dietary habits and exercise. However, many choose to eat bad food choices and to live sedentary lifestyles which causes a tug of war between insulin and glucagon. Insulin is usually winning this battle as we can see by all of the overweight or obese people that surround us. We can make a choice to control the outcome of our health we can choose to live a healthy life. Or we can sell ourselves short and not eat healthy, nor exercise. This can make the difference between a long and healthy life or one plagued by heart problems or cut short by heart disease.