Do You REALLY Understand What Cardiovascular Disease Is?

What is cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) include coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and rheumatic heart disease. The most common form is atherosclerotic diseases of the heart and vascular system. CVD is the most common cause of death in the United States. It kills more people than the next six leading causes of death combined.

CVD is the product of atherosclerosis, the progressive accretion of plaque (fatty deposits) on vessel walls. Blood flow is decreased in vessels as this narrowing gets worse.

If a blood clot lodges in a vessel narrowed by atherosclerosis, the blood flow can be stopped completely and the tissues downstream will die. When this takes place in a heart vessel, a heart attack transpires.

Why is understanding this so important?

Because unfortunately, the prevalence of CVD is not improving. The decline in deaths from CVD is not due to changes in lifestyle, such as diet, but rather because of improvements in medical care. And while heart attack deaths have declined substantially, hospital admissions for heart attacks have not.

CVD is a preventable disease in a majority of the population. Changes in diet, exercise, and lifestyle can prevent CVD from occurring and reverse its effects.

Here’s what I think you should know about some of the dietary topics influencing CVD.

  1. It’s interesting that there was a sharp decline in CVD during World War II. It was thought to be due to the scarcity of meat, butter, sugar and eggs, as well as a scarcity of calories in general. Also, with gasoline strictly rationed, more people traveled by foot.
  2. Plant-based diets have been successful at arresting CVD and even reversing it. This may be due to the high amounts of fiber and low amounts of saturated and trans fat. Or it could be due to the fact that plant-based diets are often lower in calories.
  3. Incorporating soy products into the diet may lower bad cholesterol levels, homocysteine, and blood pressure.
  4. Consuming high amounts of fruits and vegetables can improve vessel elasticity. Even the regular consumption of whole grain foods has been shown to improve heart health.
  5. Another important factor regarding dietary intake is the composition of dietary fat. Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory and prevent blood clotting. Omega-3 fats have been shown to increase survival rates after suffering a heart attack.

The role of inflammation in the development of CVD is becoming more apparent. The type of dietary fat you consume can help to control inflammation.

  1. Losing body fat and partaking in regular exercise can also be anti-inflammatory. Physical inactivity is recognized as a major risk factor for CVD. People who are inactive can improve their health by becoming just moderately active. Physical activity does not need to be strenuous to achieve health benefits. Expending just 1,000 calories per week via exercise can lead to health benefits.

The latest statistic I found was that nearly 2,400 Americans die of CVD each day, an average of 1 death every 37 seconds. That’s a startling number. Coronary heart disease caused 1 of every 5 deaths in the United States in 2004.

Each year, more than $33 billion in medical costs and $9 billion in lost productivity as a result of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes are attributed to poor nutrition.

I found an interesting quote by Dean Ornish, M.D. He promotes a vegetarian diet and he said, “I don’t understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic, while it is medically conservative to cut people open.”

So to summarize and make some easy to implement recommendations:

  • Eat a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal
  • Eat legumes at least 5 times per week
  • Eat only whole, unprocessed grains
  • Avoid trans fat consumption
  • Exercise for 5 hours per week; reach this goal gradually if you have existing CVD
  • Decrease amounts of excess body fat
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates
  • Consume no less than 25 grams of fiber per day
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Eat/supplement with foods containing omega-3 fats. Though be aware of potential interactions with blood thinning medications.

Are You Getting The RIGHT Things Done?

A friend asked me the other day if I’d read Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog!, Tracy is a personal effectiveness expert.

Her question reminded me of one very important principle Tracy and so many other effectiveness and efficiency experts talk about.

It’s called the law of forced efficiency. It says: “There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.”

Interesting law and well worth applying.

The fact is that the average person today is working at 110-130 percent of capacity. And the jobs and responsibilities just keep piling up. One recent study concluded that the average person has a backlog of 300-400 hours of reading and projects at home and at the office.

What this means is that you will never be caught up. Get that out of your mind. That’s a hard one for me and sometimes I think I write about what I most need to learn!

All you can hope for is to keep on top of your most important responsibilities. The others will just have to wait.

If we follow that reasoning, the key question we can ask is: “What is the most valuable use of my time, right now?”

Every hour of every day, there is an answer to this question. Your task is to ask yourself that question, over and over again and to make sure you’re always spending your time working on whatever is most important at that particular moment. Right now for me it’s writing this article and enjoying my coffee! See? It’s not all bad!

The more accurate your answer is to this question, the easier it will be for you to set clear priorities and overcome procrastination. It helps you stay focused and you’ll not only get more done faster, but you’ll also get the right things done! Getting things done is great….but getting the RIGHT things done is even better!

“Be Here Now” To Improve Your Daily Life

“Be here now.” Three short words that when linked together can create a powerful message. It’s been used as a book title and I’m sure as the title for many inspirational speeches.

I was at a conference a few months ago and the crowd was getting rather rowdy and off topic. The workshop leader told everyone to please pay attention to her and to “be here now!

I think that phrase reminds us that we are often NOT in the moment but that staying in the moment over an extended period of time, free of distractions, is what we need to do to accomplish our goals.

It’s true that if we want to achieve our goals we’ll have to learn to apply “Be here now” in our daily lives.

Here’s how to apply it to your goals:

Rule #1. Concentrate on defining your objective.

What do you want to accomplish? What matters to you? Why do you want to achieve that particular goal?

Rule #2. Concentrate on one part of your goal at a time.

Break down your ultimate goal into smaller chunks. Keeping an eye on the big picture is great. However, you have to focus on the individual steps that will get you there.

Rule #3. Concentrate on controlling your situation. Here’s where the “be here now” resolve must be strongest.

When focusing on those individual steps, control your natural tendencies (we all have them) to drift away from the task at hand and/or stop trying if it becomes too challenging or takes too long.

Rule #4. Concentrate on completion.

To achieve any goal, you have to make a commitment to reach the finish line. Strengthen your resolve and keep yourself motivated by visualizing the end result. Think about how excited you’ll be and how great you’ll feel when you reap the rewards of your hard work.

If you’re already practiced in the “be here now” idea, then that’s great. I know for most of us, myself included, it’s a challenge so I thought I’d remind myself of this practice and remind you all as well, too.

Coping With Stress: Top 10 Ways!

Raise your hand if you have stress on a daily basis! If there’s anyone out there whose hand isn’t in the air, please contact me as I’d like you to write these articles from now on!!!

We all feel stress, so I thought I’d send you 10 ways to cope with stress on a daily basis. They are in no particular order so read through them and use them as you wish.

  1. Visualization. Relaxing images calm your mind and body. Visualize a soothing setting and take some slow deep breaths.
  2. Speaking slowly. This can be helpful when you feel stressed or overwhelmed. When we speak slowly we can think more clearly and respond better.
  3. Recharging. Set aside some time each day for energizing your mind. Purposely plan these relaxation break times in your hectic schedule. And keep these dates with yourself.
  4. Check your posture. This is one of my favorite ones. Poor posture while sitting or standing brings tension, pain, and increased stress to your muscles. Develop a healthy sitting, standing, and working environment.
  5. Eat healthy food, and drink to avoid dehydration. Drinking plenty of water and eating a nutritious diet reduces stress.
  6. Create a positive and helpful support system. Having this makes it easier to manage stress more effectively.
  7. Learn to manage your time. I think poor time management may create more stress than just about anything. Learn to prioritize tasks and avoid overcommitting yourself. Identify regular time wasting activities and eliminate them. Work on procrastinating less. Seeing your time management skills improve will lower your stress level!
  8. Practice progressive muscle relaxation. This means tightening and then relaxing your muscles. Do this laying down and scanning through your entire body. Mental relaxation follows physical relaxation, so give this a try.
  9. Meditation. Meditation quiets your mind and emotions. This helps relax tension in your body.
  10. Exercise. Exercise can be a wonderful outlet. In many ways it acts as a buffer to the overflow of hormones that accumulate during stress. Don’t forget to combine cardiovascular exercise with resistance training.

Give some or all of these a try and see if you can’t get a handle on your daily stress. Then maybe next time I ask you to raise your hand if your feel stress on a daily basis your hand won’t go up quite as fast or quite as high!!

Will Running Help You Lose Weight?

As a health and fitness professional I field a lot of questions that revolve around the “what’s the BEST” topic. Everyone wants to know the BEST, but it’s an awkward question to answer and maybe even the wrong question to be asking. The best for what? The best for whom? And for each best recommendation that you might hear about or read about in the media, even if it’s wrong for you, there might be some truth in it.

So you may be exercising and eating all wrong, for YOU and your goals.

And the fitness field sure does lead to some interesting ideas posing as “the truth”.

For instance, here’s a sample taken from questions I receive:

  1. Is running several miles per day the key to getting fit?
  2. Is doing a ton of long, slow distance (LSD) running absolutely necessary?
  3. Is lifting the heaviest weights you possibly can the best way to get really strong and fit?
  4. Will eating five or six times per day crank up my metabolism?
  5. Will training one part of my body today and another part tomorrow prevent over-training?
  6. Is working out only 2-3 times per week the fastest way to make progress?

While there are pieces of truth in all these questions, there are also pieces of untruths. Let’s take one of these, the one about running and metabolism, which is one of the most frequent questions I get. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people tell me they are training for a marathon, or even a half marathon, and yet they aren’t losing any weight.

For example, long, slow cardio may make you feel good, but if you want to “STEP UP” your metabolism, you’re far better off doing a very hard, very vigorous workout that calls upon all your physical and mental reserves. You’re better off with a short workout that will never get easy, no matter how often you do it.

Consider the sprinter. Her body is lean, muscular, and powerful. But it is rare to find a long-distance cardio person who is well muscled. They may be lean, but there’s no power. Not only that, after a period of time they may end up suffering from hip, knee, ankle, and lower-back pain, particularly if their technique isn’t good.

Why? All the pounding on the joints takes a tremendous toll on the body.

And as I suggested, it depends on YOU and your goals. Running a lot of miles isn’t the best approach if your goal is fat loss or a change in body composition.

Try these 5 approaches instead:

  1. Begin doing vigorous bodyweight exercises that force you to lose control of your breathing. If you aren’t getting out of breath when you train, your system is NOT being forced to adapt and change. The harder you are breathing, the more shock to the system. The more “shock” there is, the greater the shake-up in your metabolism.
  2. Instead of running or bicycling several miles per day for cardio exercise, train like a cheetah. No I didn’t say train eating Cheetos, I said train like a cheetah! Run as hard as you can, at full blast, for as long as you can. Run with all your might. When finished, you’ll be gasping for oxygen. And this gasping is what turns on the fat-burning furnace within. Make sure you’re in appropriate shape before you tackle this one.
  3. Practice deep breathing. The deeper you breathe, the more oxygen in your system. The more oxygen in your system, the faster your metabolism. Don’t just get your deep breathing from vigorous exercise. Get if from the act of deep breathing itself, done all day long.
  4. Eat plenty of fiber-rich, water-content foods while avoiding starchy foods most of the time.
  5. Change the mental picture you have of yourself. As you see yourself in your mind’s eye, so you become.

While #4 and #5 aren’t about exercising per se, coupled with the first three suggestions, they’ll surely help you make progress.

So always remember, it’s about you and your goals and what exercise and diet plans will help you reach them in the safest, most efficient ways possible.

Easiest Thing You Can Do To Improve Your Health

After the last blog post about cardiovascular disease, I received an interesting question. The reader asked me, “From the list of ten recommendations you gave us, which one should I start with?”

Great question! Hard to pick just one, but here’s what I suggested.

One of the easiest and most effective things you can do to improve your health in general and heart health in particular, is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.

I found a recent study where researchers from Iran’s Obesity Research Center examined fruit and vegetable intake in 840 men and women from Tehran, and the results were dramatic. The subjects who ate a lot of different fruits and vegetables were significantly and inversely associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Specifically, it appears that eating a VARIETY of fruits and vegetables leads to lower LDL cholesterol in a dose-responsive manner. That means you’ll get more benefits from eating an apple, an orange, a banana, and some broccoli than you will from just eating an apple and an orange.

So every time you are at the grocery store, add at least one new fruit and one new vegetable to your cart. You can choose from kiwi fruit, avocados, asparagus, pears, spinach, and so many other amazing and delicious foods. This past month two foods I’ve added to my salads are radishes and jicama. I guess I was craving crunchy foods! And for fruits, let’s just say that lately I’ve been going gaga over grapefruit!

Try to be a little better every week with your fruit and vegetable intake and you’ll reduce your risk of heart disease in one of the simplest possible ways.

As you know I’m all for extending my life and living out my years in tip-top health, and I really do think that it’s a matter of making simple lifestyle choices, like eating a wider variety of fruits and veggies!

Best 5 Tips So You Have GREAT Energy All Day Long!

How would you like to add four more hours to your day? Do you wish you had more time in the day? No, that’s not a trick question and yes, I know we all have the same 24 hours in a day, so here’s my point.

If you have more energy and get more done you’ll feel like you have more time in your day. I experience this feeling often. And of course I’m suggesting increasing your energy naturally…..this is no Red Bull!

Here are five tips. Pay attention to them on a daily basis and watch the time in your day feel like it’s expanding with all you’re getting done. Keeping your energy levels high maximizes your time!

1. Include a healthy protein source into every one of your meals (this includes snacks as well).

If you’ve been reading these MMMM’s over the years, you’re probably not surprised to hear me saying this. Healthy sources of protein and good fat slow down the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose (sugar) in your blood stream, keeping your blood sugar stable throughout the day. Many times the “crash” people feel after lunch or breakfast is their blood sugar spiking high and then “crashing” really low because they ate a meal that was carbohydrate dense and not balanced with enough protein.

Adding in a healthy protein source like organic eggs, natural meats or poultry, wild fish, and raw nuts can ensure your blood sugar doesn’t go on a rollercoaster ride every time you eat. So instead of grabbing pretzels from the vending machine in the afternoon, go for some raw almonds and a piece of fruit and that will keep your energy levels sustained for the rest of the afternoon.

2. Stay hydrated all day.

Most people know they should be drinking water, but what they don’t know is that it directly affects their energy levels throughout the day. Consider this: your brain is approximately 80% water. Staying hydrated helps you maintain mental energy while avoiding fatigue and headaches. Water also plays a vital role in your body’s ability to flush toxins. Organs have to work harder when you don’t have enough water, causing fatigue.

3. Be cautious with caffeine intake.

I am not suggesting you completely eliminate your morning espresso or your breakfast tea. But many people take their cup of coffee and turn it into a pot of coffee! Yes, caffeine will give you a quick boost in energy, but will almost always send you crashing just a few hours later.

Caffeinated beverages will also dehydrate your body, and dehydration will cause you to feel fatigued (tip #2). Try to keep your caffeine beverages to a maximum of 1-2 per day. I would also suggest drinking those before 1pm as drinking caffeine any later than that can disrupt your ability to fall asleep at night.

4. Beware of “white” carbs.

“White Carbs” (breads, pastas, cereals, baked goods) break down quickly causing a fast spike in blood sugar. You’ll feel a quick rush of energy, but then a big drop, causing your energy and mood to drop along with it. Also, when too much sugar floods the system all at once, your body can’t use it all for energy and converts it to stored fat.

While it is correct that carbs give you energy, too many carbs at once will actually lead to fatigue and lethargy. I suggest keeping the “white carbs” to a minimum and eating healthier, fibrous carbs like oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. And always be sure to eat those carbs alongside a healthy protein (tip #1).

5. Do a quick 5-minute mini-exercise circuit at any point during the day.

Yes, even a quick 5-minute exercise routine is enough to get your blood circulating, sending more oxygen to your muscles and brain and giving you a boost in energy. Quick bursts of exercise will also increase your metabolism, not only helping you keep the excess pounds off, but giving you a burst of energy as well.

If I start to feel the “afternoon energy crash”, I will go for a short walk or go up and down my stairs a few times. Any movement will help. Dance and sing, or skip rope……move around.

If you aren’t already using the 5 tips, give them a try. Having great sustained energy all day long is wonderful, no matter how you choose to use all that energy!

Do You Know How To Use Breathing To Release Your Stress?

Stress…….we all have it and we all feel it. And the effects of stress will take a toll on your life.

Stress doesn’t just damage your mind. It harms your body, too.

Stress increases dangerous inflammatory factors called cytokines. It also damages the hippocampus, causing memory loss and mood disorders. Stress reduces the brain’s ability to repair itself, increases abdominal fat, interferes with thyroid function, and even increases the stickiness of blood leading to dangerous clots.

I don’t know about you, but that last paragraphed stressed me out!

However, there is a very simple action you can do to help alleviate the effects of stress. You can stimulate your vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve controls the relaxation response through the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This anti-stress response can be switched on in a matter of minutes.

Here is what you can do to stimulate your vagus nerve.

Take a deep breath into your belly to the count of five. Pause. Breathe out slowly to the count of five. Keep your belly soft. Repeat 5 times.

With this simple and effective breathing exercise, you instantly reduce your levels of cortisol and help your body get back to a peaceful state of balance.

In addition to a few minutes a day of soft-belly breathing, you can bolster your body’s defenses against stress by engaging in regular vigorous exercise, eating a healthy diet, and enjoying fresh air and sunlight.

Try this belly breathing exercise next time you feel stressed and see what you think.

Breathing for Relaxation: Cosmic Orbit Breath

This week here’s a tip about boosting your energy flow. It comes from my friend and colleague, acupuncturist Felix Wolf.

When you are feeling “stuck, out of balance, disconnected, or depressed” (and who doesn’t, on occasion), give this a try. It’s called the “microcosmic orbit breath”.

Before I give you the “technique”, let me share with you what Felix has to say.

“Keep it it simple. The exercise is simply to circulate the energy along the core meridians with the help of the breath.

Inhale up the spine to the top of the head while contracting the perinneal muscles and anal sphincter and exhale down the front to the perinneum while relaxing all your muscles. It is recommended to connect the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth during the exercise. The breathing should be abdominal, smooth, round and with a normal rhythm.

It can be done as a meditation or integrated into daily activities, e.g. while waiting for a red light to turn green, while waiting in line, or at bedtime. Don’t over think it or set any special intentions and NO specific knowledge required.”

Thanks Felix! Here’s a link for you to look at :

Are Your Daily Activities Causing You Pain?

Do your daily activities cause you pain?

Let’s take a look.

Time spent standing, sitting and even sleeping can be causing you pain. It’s the cumulative hours you spend in these positions that can lead to prolonged damage to both your muscles and fascia.

If you go to a professional who works in the field of corrective exercise, you’ll get help alleviating some of the problems caused by improper seated, standing, and sleeping postures. But there are also some simple adjustments you can make yourself.


Your body is designed to be upright and weight bearing on two feet, with your hips, torso, and head in good alignment. We spend way too much time sitting!

Get out of your chair several times a day. This helps keep your hips, legs, and spine extended. If you can, convert your work space into a standing desk or walk instead of always driving places.

Change chairs and positions often or alternate between sitting and standing when you work.

I’ve mentioned before that I work mostly standing up and use a counter as a workspace. I also have two different chairs I sit on when I read or write but mostly I sit on the floor. As I write this I am sitting on the floor!


Sitting too much can weaken your arches. When this happens, your feet are less able to accept your body weight and your arches collapse. Notice if you often shift from side to side when you stand. You are trying to redistribute your body weight and get more comfortable.

Besides examining your shoe choices (which is a big topic that we’ll cover in another newsletter) eliminate, or at least reduce, the time your spend in high heels.

Pay attention to your upper-body position when standing. Do you cross your arms, talk on a cell phone a lot, carry a bag on one shoulder or constantly have your hands in your pockets? All of these will over time create tight muscles and fascia. Paying attention to how you stand is the first step.


If you have chronic tightness or muscular imbalances from sitting too much or standing with poor posture, sleeping is often uncomfortable too. Adopting better sleeping positions will help reduce pain.

Sleep on your back. Make sure your bed is firm enough so that neither your lower back or thoracic spine sinks into the mattress. Sometimes putting a wedge or pillow under your knees makes you more comfortable. Start off in this position for just a few minutes each night and gradually increase the amount of time you spend like this. As your spine adjusts, the use of the pillow can be reduced.

Choose a pillow that supports your head so that your eyes are in a position perpendicular to the ceiling. And make sure your pillow thickness doesn’t push your head too far forward.

If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees. This keeps your knees in line with your hip socket.

Avoid sleeping on your stomach. That over arches your lower back and puts too much twist on your neck.

We all have to sit, stand, and sleep so it’s important to do them in ways that don’t cause PAIN!