Take a CPR Class! You Can Save a Life... Anywhere

October 26, 2015

   A few years ago a seemingly healthy 16-year-old boy, Adam Thompson, died of sudden cardiac arrest at home in a small town near Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He had no warning. The first symptom was death. It turns out he had an enlarged heart from a condition of thickening known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. He had never been diagnosed with it because there were never any symptoms to warrant it. The Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association says 1 in 500 people have the disease.

   Sudden cardiac arrest in youth is not a rare occurrence. It happens to thousands of kids each year – on the football field, on the soccer field, in the classroom and in their sleep. And hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is just one cause.

  October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month and the Heart Rhythm Society is raising awareness for sudden cardiac arrest, also known as SCA, with a new initiative that can help the public become more familiar with what it is, how it affects youth as well as adults, and what we can do to help save lives. 

    Time is Everything

   Sudden cardiac arrest is the sudden, unexpected loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness. SCA usually results from an electrical disturbance in the heart which disrupts its pumping action, stopping blood flow to the rest of the body. The person may suddenly pass out and appear lifeless except for some gasping. Seizures lasting 10-20 seconds may also be experienced. 

   Time-to-treatment is critical when considering the chance of survival for an SCA victim. Ninety-five percent of those who experience SCA die because they don't receive life-saving defibrillation within four to six minutes, before brain and permanent death start to occur. 

Known Causes

   The most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest is an irregular or abnormal rhythm, called an arrhythmia, which is too uncoordinated to pump any blood. The heart quivers rather than contracts normally.

   Other causes are the thickening of the heart muscle (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy), genetic defects (such as Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia), heart rhythm disorders (Brugada syndrome, long QT syndrome, Wolff Parkinson White syndrome) and heart valve disorders (such as Mitral Valve Prolapse).

   But SCA can happen to people who do not have heart disease. It can be triggered by recreational drug use, electrocution, or even physical shocks to the body such as commotio cordis, a disruption in the heart rhythm due to a sudden blow to the chest.

What Can You Do?

   Call 911 ASAP and start CPR as quickly as possible. And, if it's available, use an automated external defibrillator (AED) as soon as possible. AEDs are a computerized medical device that can check a person’s heart rhythm. It recognizes and delivers a shock to a heart when it needs it. AEDs are found in many public places such as airports, gyms and office buildings.The AED will deliver a shock only when an irregular heart rhythm is detected.

Automatic External Defibrillator AED
Automatic External Defibrillator (AED)

  How Can You Prevent SCA?

Live a healthy lifestyle — exercise regularly, eat healthy foods, maintain a healthy weight and avoid smoking.

Treat and monitor all health conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. 

Control or stop abnormal heart rhythms that may trigger life-threatening arrhythmias with proper medication, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), and in some, cases surgical procedures

Know your family heart history and understand the risks for other cardiovascular-related conditions and share that information with your physician. 

   This coming holiday season give your loved ones a lifesaving gift. Take a CPR-AED class. They're offered through the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, our local fire department, hospital, and community college. If in fact you don't have the time to take a class, check out The HeartRescue Project for a quick tutorial. 

     The life you save will most likely be that of a friend, relative, or co-worker. 

Injury Prone, Maybe Not!

October 12, 2015

   I've recently had a couple of injuries that have slowed me down: shoulder pain (deltoid), neck and upper back pain (trapezius ), weakness in my ankles (tibilas anterior). Why, I wonder?

   I've been getting at least 7 hours of sleep nightly. I eat pretty clean and even though I know I haven't done my regular exercise, I do work out more regularly than most. Once I started thinking about the reasons why these injuries might be happening I realized it could be more than just my workouts! According to the U.S. consumer product safety commission, the following fitness-related injury statistics occurred in 2009: 

1) 1,500 emergency room visits resulting from equipment related mishaps in gyms.

2) 50,000 emergency room visits from home exercise equipment: treadmill falls, exercise ball falls, elastic stretch band hits to face, and dropping free weights on feet.

3) 575 occurrences of falling off and/or tripping from treadmills, the number one cause of equipment related injuries. Weight machines and free weights caused 224 injuries.

So, here are just a few that you might want to be aware of as well:

Wearing Incorrect Footwear 

   If you’re doing high impact aerobics such as running or jogging, wearing the the right shoes can help to prevent injuries to your feet and legs. Getting measured is important to be sure you are choosing the correct size shoe. Make sure the shoes you choose provide plenty of arch and bottom support because failing to wear properly fitting shoes with poor support can lead to shin splints, ankle sprains, blisters and aching feet. A good rule of thumb is 1 pair every 6 months if you walk, run or jog on a regular basis.  

Wearing Inappropriate Jewelry and Clothing

   Make sure you take off any jewelry that might inhibit or exert undue pressure as you’re moving at home. For example, a swollen finger with a ring on it could cause plenty of pain and in an extreme case the ring may need to be cut off. It's happened. Clothing should be a comfortable fit not too tight and certainly not to loose. You want full range of motion when doing your exercises.

Not Warming Up

   Sprains and strains are often caused by improperly warming up the muscles and joints prior to your activity. Over stretching a muscle or ligament is possible if they're not properly warmed up. It's good to develop a warm up routine and there ae several exercises perfect for it: jumping jacks, lunges, leg swings, push ups, squats and hip extensions are some of the main ones.

Poor Training

With any activity you use proper form and technique.  Without following proper form, especially during strength training, you can severely injure muscles, ligaments and tendons.  Make sure you understand exactly how each movement should be performed. 


   Vary your workout. I'm a big proponent of this one. Using one set of muscles or repeating the same muscle movements frequently can lead to overuse and repetitive-use injuries. Doing the same exercises day after day can place undue stress on muscles and joints. There are several common injuries caused by over use: stress fractures, shin splints, tendinitis, golfers elbow and tennis elbow to name a few..

Not Resting Enough Between Workouts

   Experts agree that one rest day per week is a healthy approach to a fitness regime and assures that your body is allowed enough time to repair and recover. That doesn’t mean you have to lay around on the couch all day eating bon bons!  You can still be active. Take an easy hike, walk or bike ride. But, don’t worry about pushing the pace or getting into your training zone. Use a bit of common sense. If your body feels overworked and is begging to stop, listen and give your body a rest. This will help prevent injury.

   The bottom line is to pay attention. If something is hurting or doesn't feel right then take notice. If you're low on energy slow down your workout or shorten it. And if you're not feeling well stay home, rest and recuperate. Your body will heal faster. In the big picture, consistency of your workouts is more important then how hard you work. 

Adding Kettlebells to your Workout Routine

 September 28, 2015

   Kettlebells have been used as a dynamic tool to develop strength and endurance for centuries.

   Kettlebells are a Russian invention, appearing some time in the 1700s. In Russian they're called girya. Originally, though, they weren't used for fitness but rather as weights to measure the weight of grains and crops. But the handy handle was probably too irresistible to not show off one's strength and Russian farmers were soon establishing strength contests at local festivals, much the same way we have sledge hammer contests at the county fair.

   In the late 1800s "physical culture" and sports were all the rage. A Russian doctor, Vladislav Kraevsky, traveled throughout Europe researching health, well-being and physical education. Back in Russia he introduced exercises with kettlebells and barbells to the Russian athletic community. The practice caught on. The Soviet army used them as part of their physical training and conditioning programs and the Russians and Europeans were using them for competition and sports by the1940s.

   The kettlebell looks like a cannonball with a handle... because, that's kind of what they were when originally used as measurement weights. Today, they're used in strength training. Essentially, you lift, accelerate, and then releases the weight, rather than slowly lowering it as in other forms of weight training. It combines cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training.

Modern Benefits of Using the Kettlebell

   1. It's a movement based exercise. Kettlebell training teaches your body how to contend with a constantly changing center of gravity. This helps to improve anyones sports performance and  creates a mental toughness.

   2. Since many kettlebell exercises take place with your arms in an overhead position the muscles responsible for assisting the breathing process are engaged in this muscular activity. This forces the muscles most responsible for breathing to play a larger role in cardio-vascular fitness.

   3. Kettlebell workouts are so efficient that the time involved for a good workout is usually less that a weight lifting routine.This shorter time commitment will allow you to devote your  attention to skill, rest and recovery. 

   4. Kettlebell training is both strength training and cardio training. It Increases strength without increase of mass. Kettlebell exercisers are lean and toned, not bulky—a benefit that appeals to both women and men.

   5. It improves mobility and range of motion and decreases musculoskeletal pain by increasing strength in your lower back.

What weight should I start with?

   Kettlebells traditionally are measured in kilograms rather than weight. A beginner female should start with an 8-kg bell, as the  4-kg is not heavy enough to provide a solid weight lifting effect for most women. Women with more weight lifting experience and fitness can start with a 12-kg bell.

   A beginner male will do best with a 12 or 16-kg bell, depending on current fitness level. If you're familiar with weight training and moving with weight, then 16-kg can be used. If you are new to strength training, a 12 kg will suit your needs better.

   One of my all time favorites is the Kettlebell Swing. It is one of the  foundational exercises that teaches the powerful hip snap.

   This move works your core (abs and back), glutes, hips, legs, and shoulders! That’s a whole lot of body toning for one move! Begin with your feet hip width apart and hold the kettlebell with both hands between your legs. Inhale and lower into a squat position. Exhale and powerfully press your weight into your heels while swinging the weight up to eye level. Repeat 15 times.

   Adding kettlebells to your routine has many benefits. It helps to mix up how you train your muscles forcing them to work in a different way as well as keeping boredom out of your exercise routines.

An FFL Real Review: The Garmin Forerunner 15

September 14, 2015

   I’m a believer in using whatever motivates you to succeed.

   For some it’s the dog. Waking up in the morning to their canine friend hounding them to take a walk. Yes, it’s a pain in the butt but in the end both appreciate getting out. The American Heart Association did a recent study that confirms dog owners have a lower rate of obesity, heart disease, anxiety, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

   Other people are calendar driven. It’s a gift. The appointment arrives and they just do it. I’m not sure that’s what Nike had in mine when it came up with their slogan, but it works for them (and me). Then there are the fitness gadgets. It’s like having a dog/calendar on your wrist. Some of these trackers, like a Swiss Army knife that does too much, can be overwhelming . Fortunately you can turn some of these features off so there is less for you to learn all at once.

   Less is often more.

Garmin Forerunner 15

   So, on the less is more theme, one tracker I've been impressed with is the Garmin Forerunner series. I've been using the Forerunner 15 and it's focus on one kind of activity is its strength. However, I would not recommend it for everyone. This watch might not be the best device on the market for those whose goal is to lose weight. Fitbits and other similar activity trackers do a better job. But those for whom it's designed have a good chance of loving it.

   Where the Garmin Forerunner 15 excels is for anyone who is taking up power walking, jogging, or running.

   Let's say your doctor has told you to exercise more. And not just move around but engage in a daily regime. This focused activity is something the watch can track. It does this in two modes simultaneously. The base mode is your daily number of steps. The watch will track them daily and there is no button pushing required. For optimal fitness set your daily steps for 10,000 per day. The watch comes with a default of 7,500 (that's kind of active, more in the upper couch potato range). You'll want to reset it to 10,000.

Power Walking

   The other mode is the stopwatch. At the beginning of your walk, hit the colored stopwatch button. The watch then connects to the GPS. The is how the watch tracks your distance walked. 

   Hit the colored button again, the stopwatch then begins to measure your distance as you move. When your walk is finished, hit the button one more time and stop the stopwatch.The Forerunner 15 displays the time, steps, distance and pace. Simply save the "run" and the watch returns to its original state. When you look at your daily steps for the day you'll see that all the steps from your power walk have been added to your total.

   This device is basic and a powerful tool without being too complex. One thing many realize after using it is how inactive they actually are. I've heard it many times: "Wow, my normal day of activity is way off the mark from what it should be. 10,000 steps is a lot more activity than I'm used to."

   Many of us get into a habit of moving less and less as our lives change, and we age not realizing how little we actually are moving. Using a tracker will help you realize that your body is capable (and even wants) to move more. Once you know what 10,000 steps in a day feels like, and once that becomes your new normal, it becomes a platform for you to improve your health at any age.

   There are a few useful features you can turn off or on depending on where you are in your development. One of them is the "Move" alert as in the above picture. You'll hear a beep when you haven't walked at least 200 steps in the last hour. I find this to be less useful once you've shifted to 10,000 steps/day as your new normal. When you're hitting your daily goal regularly, turn this feature off.

Jogging & Running (and Power Walking, too)

   For runners, the Forerunner (and as I write this it occurs to me how Garmin came up with the name!) has a heart monitor feature that I found tested beautifully.

 The heart rate monitor is the best indicator of how well your heart rate changes over time of use. This isn't just for Olympic athletes. It is a helpful tool for anyone getting their heart healthy and maintaining it. Exercise is beneficial to the heart and can help manage high blood pressure among the many other benefits. 

   Rather than just exercising and hoping you're helping your heart, a heart rate monitor offers a picture of what's actually happening, giving you more control. Knowledge is power. There's a heart rate alert you can set which tells when to back off or do more depending on your heart exertion goals.

   Is it possible to exercise and stay off the medications? Yes. But as you know, if you're thinking of getting a training device always consult your doctor first. 

   If you really want to get fancy there's a "Run/Walk" feature for intervals. If you're new to jogging or running, instead of biting off 1 or 2 miles right away, the feature can be set up to tell when to walk and when to run. Over time you can reset the intervals to walk less and run more. The same feature can also help competitive athletes with speed training, as the watch alerts you when to do sprints during a training run.

   If you want to run (or power walk) at a certain pace (minutes per mile) the watch can alert you when you're off pace. You can also set the watch to pause. So, if you stop for, say, a phone call coming in or you bump into a friend on a trail at Fiscalini Ranch, the watch doesn't include the time and inactivity spent during the pause, which would throw off your actual numbers. And you can set the watch to beep at you each time you hit a mile. I found that feature interesting but not needed unless you're really mile-oriented.

Clunky Software Design

   The software's downside for me is that is has far too many buttons, window panes, menus and views creating too much to learn for my needs. I'm not saying Garmin Connect doesn't work. But while the watch is good because it allows you to focus and doesn't require a lot fuss, the software feels like just the opposite. I don't need another computer app to manipulate and then spend time admiring all the data it can display.

   There are only a few things I need to know: how am I doing? i.e., how many steps in a day now compared to the start of my program? A person can look at the calendar in the app and see that they're taking too many days off, even though they thought they were right on. That's really useful.

   It took me awhile to figure out how to access the core pieces of data I needed. You are probably more tech savvy then me so maybe it will take you less time to find your way around, get the data you need for your particular goals, and customize the app.

   Once you do get familiar with it, there are a few notable nice things about the features. The best one I used was the course/map feature. I went in and literally constructed a course on Fiscalini Ranch trails which not only shows the distance but elevation loss and gain of the terrain. Then, I walked that course with a heart monitor. When I returned to my computer and plugged the watch in, the Garmin Connect software showed my performance on the course--my pace, my steps, my calories burned, and my heart rate at every stage of the walk.

   How cool is that? 

   If I were trying to burn a certain number of calories or speed up my pace, I'd have the data to monitor my progress.

   I haven't even touched on all the software's features because I had a specific purpose in mind when I chose to use it. It does more when it comes to tracking and setting parameters for your training sessions and these are additional features you may find useful.

   By the way, I'll be reviewing more fitness tech in the future and I'm calling these "real reviews" because I'm not being paid to give them, nor am I receiving free products. I'm just telling you what I think as a personal trainer. 

   I'd give the Garmin Forerunner 15 an A as a great off-the-shelf ready-to-use device. The software gets a C because it isn't so very user friendly. Although I think it can be mastered.

Getting Back to your Routine

August 31, 2015

   Summer is almost over. The days are getting shorter and hopefully the weather cooler. You've done your traveling for the summer and now you're staying closer to home. Kids and grandkids are back in school. 

   Like a lot of us you've probably let your workout routine go by the wayside. It happens to us all. We get derailed with additional activities in the summertime. Dust off your sports bra and sneakers because it's time to reboot your routine and more importantly your health!

   What steps will help you get back on track? Well... to start you can mark your workout days on the calendar. Make it one of the things on your to-do list. 

Start Slow

   When returning to exercise after a prolonged absence, remember: start slowly. You can return to the same exercise you previously did, but at a lower intensity. If you were running, start with walking  and build up to jogging then to running. If you previously did weight training, lower your weights to about half of what you lifted before. Keep your sessions less than 45 minutes for the first two to four weeks and make sure you warm up and cool down to protect muscles and joints from injury. As your fitness builds, usually around the six-week mark, you can add more workouts per week and increase the time spent working out. You'll know you're ready to progress when your workout routine is no longer challenging.

Make it Fun

   If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym it's going to be hard to make it a habit. Once you're there try to use different machines than you've used before. The new challenge will not only stimulate your brain it will help you become more familiar with other pieces of equipment in your gym. I tell my clients it's like learning a new language. Get your foundation and expand from there. There are thousands of ways you can move your body with exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you then try taking a new class.

Commit to 30 Days

   Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will keep your exercise habit part of your daily routine. By making a commitment you become dedicated to it.

Sign Up for a 5k Race

   You could walk or run the 3 miles and your gym routine will help you get ready for this wonderful challenge not to mention how good you'll feel after your accomplishment. Try purchasing a fitbit, watch or pedometer so you can track your mileage or steps as you get closer to your goal.

Get on the Buddy System

   Go to the gym with a friend. Experts say that partners in weight-loss and exercise provide a combination of competition, accountability and support that almost ensures success. Another option is to hire a personal trainer. Most trainers offer group training sessions at lower fees. Not only will you have someone to workout with but both you and your buddy will  be getting a good workout in.

Go for Yourself

   Don't go to the gym to impress others and don't feel as if you have to look a certain way to be accepted. Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with the only goal of appearing to be successful, even if the books aren't adding up. 

   Your time exercising is about you! If your intention is to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can stay the course, even when results are slow.

Remember Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps your going!!

Is Sitting the New Smoking Disease?

August 17, 2015

   Think about how much time you spend behind the steering wheel, slumped over a keyboard or on a couch or chair watching television. Did you know that all of these increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, back pain and depression? Not to mention what it does to your waistline. 

   Current research shows that sitting more that three hours a day can cut two years off your life expectancy even with regular exercise. TV watching for more than two hours a day can shorten your life expectancy by 1.4 years and one hour of TV watching for anyone over 25 years old is as lethal as lighting up one cigarette according to The British Journal of Sports Medicine referring to a study conducted by the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in 2012.

What Happens to Your Body When You Sit?

   1. Prolonged sitting causes changes in your body. One change is the overproduction of insulin by your pancreas. Cells that aren’t moving don’t respond as well to the effects of insulin, so your body makes more. These changes are noticed after one day of prolonged sitting and this can lead to diabetes.

   2. It also increases your risk for colon, breast and endometrial cancers. The theory is that excess insulin encourages cell growth. Regular movement, like exercise, boosts natural antioxidants that kill cell-damaging free radicals.

   3. Sitting decreases blood flow causing poor circulation to your lower legs putting you at greater risk for blood clots called deep vein thrombosis or DVT.             

   4. When we sit, we don't contract our abs and that fosters loose or weak abdominals. When we stand our abs hold us up. When seated, the muscles that make up our hip flexors and hamstrings are both in a shortened position. These muscles attach to the vertebrae in the lower lumbar region of the spine. Over time, these muscles will become tight and short creating a tug-of-war type of strain on the lower back. 

   5. Foggy brains. Sitting for long periods slows circulation to the brain. But when we move it pumps blood to the brain, keeping our heads clear and energized. 

   6.  By craning your neck forward all day and slouching over a keyboard we put a lot of strain on our upper bodies this creates tight neck and shoulder muscles.

Here are some great reasons to swap out the rolling office chair or couch for a stability ball:

  • Sitting on a stability ball promotes “active sitting” as you are in a more unstable environment. Your deep core stabilizer muscles (the muscles around your spine that allow you to sit up straight) get more activation.
  • There is no slouching or lounging since the ‘no back’ feature of a stability ball requires you to sit up straight. This allows you to multi-task at your workstation as you type and improve your posture at the same time.
  • Having a stability ball around will likely encourage you to add playtime back into your day. Turn your coffee break into an "exercise" break by using the stability ball to perform exercises such as ball squats, crunches and lunges. You will burn some extra calories and increase your oxygen exchange which will help you feel refreshed.
  •  Get up periodically for the 7-8 hours that you are at work each day giving your legs and back a chance to stretch out.
  •  You can stretch your hamstrings, chest, shoulders, and lots of other muscle groups while on  your stability ball too.

Strengthening Your Heart and Lungs

sherri bike seattle Strengthening Your Heart and Lungs

Sherri McMillian owner of Northwest Fitness and Personal Training shared this great blog. Great information for us all!!

The cardio-respiratory system or the heart and lungs is responsible for the distribution of oxygen throughout the body. Oxygen, the gas that makes up 21% of the air we breathe, is critical to life. In fact, tissues will start to die without oxygen in about 6 minutes. So the efficiency of the heart and lungs and how they work together is very important both during rest and exercise.

This system functions by first causing us to breathe using our respiratory muscles. Air then enters our bodies and travels to our lungs. The oxygen is diffused through our lungs and into our blood stream and travels towards the heart. The heart is a strong enough muscle to be able to pump the blood to the entire body where tissues will extract the oxygen to use it to produce energy. Carbon Dioxide, a toxic waste product, is produced and the body must then dispose of it so it travels back up to the heart, then to the lungs and we exhale it. This entire process is an ongoing system that of course, occurs more rapidly during exercise. There are a few things that can make this system function more or less effectively.


    In order for oxygen to travel through the blood stream, hemoglobin, the protein molecule in red blood cells, must be present. Hemoglobin will bind to oxygen and oxygen will then be capable of traveling throughout the body. Fortunately, hemoglobin has a high affinity for oxygen and will bind to it rapidly. However, hemoglobin has a much higher affinity to carbon monoxide, a by-product of cigarette smoke. This explains why smokers have such difficulty catching their breath or being capable of intense activity. The oxygen is there for them but the hemoglobin has bound to the carbon monoxide and therefore, the oxygen is incapable of traveling to the bodily tissues. Smokers, once they quit, will notice their energy levels improve dramatically.

In contrast to smoking, exercise will drastically improve the efficiency of the cardio-respiratory system in many ways.

One, your heart is a muscle just like any other muscle and if you train it, it becomes stronger. Therefore, with each contraction, your heart can pump out a whole lot more blood therefore, sending a lot more precious oxygen to the tissues. In addition, you may not know this, but as you get fitter, your total blood volume will increase. In fact, you may be able to store an extra 1.5 liters of blood in your body. With more blood that means more hemoglobin and more oxygen-carrying capacity. In fact, after about 6 months of exercise, you can expect your maxVO2, an indicator of your cardio-respiratory fitness, to improve by 15-20%! In addition to all these improvements you can also expect your lungs and respiratory muscles to get stronger through exercise. You will have an increased ability to ventilate and to get the oxygen where it needs to go.

There are a couple things you can do during activity to ensure maximum effectiveness of your cardio-respiratory system:

  • One is the use of a proper warm-up. The heart and lungs do not respond very well going from inactivity to intense exercise. They require a gradual stimulation by incorporating a low intensity 5-10 minute active warm-up. So if you’re going to go out for a jog, start with a short walk first. If you’re going to cycle, start in an easy gear. You’ll find your heart and lungs will be prepared for the intensity and you will perform much better.
  • Then progress slowly into your peak training zone.
  • In addition to a proper warm-up, a proper cool-down will assist the cardio-respiratory system in removing any waste products and will prevent blood-pooling which happens when you stop exercise too quickly and the blood collects in the lower extremities causing sensations of dizziness. A 5-10 minute low intensity, active cool-down will gradually slow down the heart and the lungs and will be less stressful on your entire body.  

There is a lot going on inside your body behind the scenes, when you commit to a consistent exercise regime it will make you stronger in many ways and ultimately, make everything you do easier!  So you know what they say…just do it!

The link to Obesity and Cancer in Women

  August 3, 2015

  I recently received a call from a cousin she had cancer and surgery was scheduled for the following week. As children we spent many summers and week-ends together feeling as if we were sisters. In actuality our mothers were sisters. She had found a lump on one of her breasts. After a doctor visit, a biopsy and minor surgery she found out it was the big C. You see.... cancer runs in her family on both her  father and mothers side. Her paternal grandmother had both breasts removed at the age of 60 but lived to be 86 years old. On our mothers side there is stomach cancer and colon cancer. Genetically it's usually on the mothers side. 

     According to data from Cancer Research in the UK, 274  in every 1,000 obese women are expected to develope some form of weight related cancer.  These include bowel, kidney, esophegial,colon,pancreatic,gallbladder and post menopausal breast to name a few. The combination of genes, environment, exercise and other aspects of our lives  are all contributing factors. Excess fat changes the levels of sex hormones, namely estrogen and testosterone, in the body. This may increase the risk of cancer. Fat cells also produce many other chemical messengers which affect how the body works.

    The hormone insulin is an important part of how the body uses energy from food. When people are overweight or obese, there is much more insulin present in the body. It’s not clear how this could lead to cancer, but high insulin levels are a common feature of many cancers. When too much fat is carried around the belly, it can do even more damage. The so-called ‘apple’ shapes are linked to bowel, kidney, esophageal, pancreatic, breast, and womb cancers. Fat cells send out signals that keep cells with DNA damage from dying, leaving more damaged cells alive. This enables these cells to one day become cancerous. What these signals mean we aren't quite sure but it's probably a subject for future research.To reduce cancer risk, most people should  keep their BMIs below 25. BMI is a number based on your weight and height.The higher the number, the more body fat a person has. BMI is often used as a screening tool to determine if your weight might be putting you at risk for health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.   www.nhlbi.nih.gov/.../BMI/bmi.

What can you do to help prevent these types of cancer?

    Diet-Watching how much you eat will help you control your weight. Try watching your portion sizes, especially  foods high in calories, fat, and added sugars. Also try to limit your intake of high-calorie drinks. Eat more vegetables, lean protein and whole grains Try writing down what and how much you eat and drink for a week, then see where you can cut down on portion sizes and cut back on some not-so-healthy foods.

    Exercise-The other key is to be more physically active. Being active helps reduce your cancer risk by helping with weight control. It can also help improve your hormone levels and the way your immune system works. Even a small increase will reap benefits. Research indicates that physical activity after a diagnosis of breast cancer may be beneficial in improving quality of life by reducing fatigue and  energy balances. Studies have found that women who exercised moderately ( walking 3 to 5 hours per week at an average pace) after a diagnosis of breast cancer had improved survival rated compared with more sedentary women. Especially in women with hormone responsive tumors. Another study found that a home-based physical activity program had a beneficial effect on the fitness and psychological well-being of previously sedentary women who had completed treatment for early-stage through stage II breast cancer. Increasing physical activity may influence insulin and leptin levels and influence the prognosis of breast cancer as well . Although there are several promising studies, it is too early to be able to draw any strong conclusions regarding physical activity and breast cancer survival rates.

Weeding out the Aches and Pains of Gardening

June 22, 2015

    Even in Cambria with our water rations gardening and weeding is in full swing. Lots of bending, lifting, pushing, pulling, squatting and twisting will certainly reward you with aches and pains of you don't warm up the muscles before heading out. It’s hard to imagine gardening is actually an athletic activity requiring muscle endurance, strength and flexibility. However, as we age the tissues in our bodies don't seem to be quite as limber as they used to be. We can cut down on the risk of back pain and other aches by doing a few simple exercises that take a minimal amount of time before tackling your garden.

    Knee lifts:  Stand and hold onto a door handle. This will help keep you stable if you get a little dizzy. Lift the right knee as high as you can. Return your foot to the ground. Lift you left knee again as high as you can. Put your foot on the ground. Repeat right and left leg lifts for two or three minutes each time  encouraging your muscles to stretch so that the knee comes a little higher each time allowing the fibers connected to your muscles to reach their maximum stretch. This exercise will ease-off the hamstrings, gluteal muscles (the cheeks of the bottom) and the lumbar spine muscles which are across the base of your back.

    Windmills: Keeping the right arm straight, rotate forward as if you were reaching for something in front of you. Lift that straight arm up to the sky and back around behind you. By keeping the movement slow the  muscles in and around your shoulder joint will relax and stretch. Ten rotations forward then rest.  Repeat the same exercise this time taking the arm in a backwards motion as if you were lying on your back in the swimming pool, doing the back-stroke. Try to stretch back as far as you can. Repeat for ten repetitions. Repeat the same sequence on your left side.

     Walk a lap or two- Walk around the block just to get the blood flowing through your limbs. Then perform a couple easy, mild squats, forward and backward bends and twists to warm up your joints.

    While in the garden, you can also limit the stress and strain of staying in certain positions for extended periods of time by standing periodically and moving to another part of your garden that requires a different movement like shoveling verses kneeling and pulling weeds.

    Finish off your day with a few static stretches while sitting on a bench. Don't forget to admire the great job you've just completed.

    Seated Rotation: Sit in a chair with perfect upright posture and abdominals contracted.  Now slowly rotate in one direction and hold.  Repeat to the other side.

    Seated Hamstring Stretch-Sit on a chair with one leg straight out in front of you and the other bent.  Slowly bend forwards at the hip while keeping your back in a neutral position until you feel the stretch in the back of your leg.  Hold the stretch for a 30 second minimum.  Repeat on the other leg.

Seated Hip Stretch- Sit on a chair with one leg bent over the other so one ankle rests on the opposite thigh.  Now slowly press downwards on the bent leg until you feel a light stretch on the outside edge of your hip.  Hold for a minimum of 30 seconds. Again repeat on the other side.

    Standing Quadriceps Stretch-Stand on your right leg while holding the left heel towards your buttock – hold onto the chair for balance.  Standing perfectly upright, press the left hip forwards while keeping the upper thigh perpendicular to the floor.  Hold for a minimum of 30 seconds each leg.

    Preparing your body for gardening also means staying physically active all winter.  So be proactive and make a winter plan of exercise to keep moving. Walking, swimming, hiking, fitness classes and indoor cardio are all great ways to maintain your health all year long and minimize the muscle and joint aches and pains that will come next spring.

Happy Gardening!

Reevaluate Your Eating Habits

June 14, 2015

    You get up in the morning and lay out your jogging clothes in preparation for your commitment to exercising daily. Imagine what could happen if you prepared some of your food choices in the same way--a visual reminder that these are the items you will be eating later. 

    I recently stayed in a B&B and the hostess displayed an array of grab and go food items on her counter. They included healthy nut bars, fresh fruit, small water bottles on ice and raw almonds.

    Her refrigerator had fresh cut vegetables with hummus ready to dip into at any moment. This attractive display on her counter and ready to eat veggie dish could make the difference in meeting a 5-a-day goal. 

    Healthy eating is not about strict dietary limitations, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about feeling great, having more energy, improving your outlook, and stabilizing your mood. 

    A recent Cornell University analysis of 112 studies collected information about healthy eating behaviors. The study found that most healthy eaters did so because a restaurant, grocery store, school cafeteria, or spouse made foods like fruits and vegetables visible and easy to reach (Convenient), enticingly displayed (Attractive), and appear like an obvious choice (Normal). You "CAN" make some easy changes in your daily activities that will help with your good eating habits.

Conveince - by having foods readily available and prepared ahead of time you can eliminate the quickly prepackaged food dilemma. Cut fresh vegetables and small tomatoes and place them on a serving tray in your refrigerator next to a small container of hummus or lite dressing or have small go-to containers of yogurt, cottage cheese, cut up fruits or fresh berries in front and handy. When you reach in to grab that quick bite of something it will be ready for your immediate consumption.

Attractive - a brightly colored bowl of fresh fruit on the counter always entices me to take just one bite. A study, published in Psychology and Marketing, by Brian Wansink director of the Cornell food and brand lab shows that when fruit is put in a nice bowl next to your car keys – or when a cafeteria puts it next to a well-lit cash register -- it becomes more convenient and attractive.

 Normal - grabbing a banana rather than the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream in the far back corner of the freezer.

    These three principles I believe can help us all continue our quest for healthy eating.