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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Two Year Past Stent Placement Thanksgiving!

Today is the day before Thanksgiving and I have a lot to be thankful for.  Anyone who has been through hearing that "you're husband has one 99% blocked artery and the other 100% blocked" who has seen him not have a heart attack and not only survive but thrive two years later does have a lot to be thankful for!!!

DH had his 99% blocked artery stented two years ago on October 18th and his 100% blocked artery stented December 6th, six weeks after the first procedure.

Yesterday was his six month check-up with his cardiologist and together they had a bit of a celebration.  His cholesterol still mains safely below heart attack level at 125 total, 72 LDL, 30 HDL (the highest it has ever been), and 117 for triglycerides.

He continues to maintain his 75 pound weight loss without exercise, without counting carbs, without counting calories.

Three months after the second stent placement he was taken off of Lisonpril, which is a medication given to control the adrenaline response (and makes a person feel very unalive).  Three months later he was taken off of his metatoprolol (which controls blood pressure), and yesterday his statin drug was cut in half to 10 mg. and now he only has to take it three days per week.  We were told this would never happened.  Guess what?  It happened.  And we have now, also, been invited to our cardiologist special event in February to be his special guest at his Mind, Body, and Soul seminar.

Now, I'm going to talk about something very personal.  Women, you need to know that erectile dysfunction is a sign that shows some months or years before a heart problem is discovered.   This is not a sign of old age.  This is a sign of heart disease.

 I heard somewhere that the average is three years, but I wouldn't say that if this condition shows up all of the sudden that you should say, "I have three years to mess around with this."

This is a huge warning sign that your husband needs to change his lifestyle.  Educate yourself and encourage him to educate himself on how to prepare and eat low-fat plant based foods.  If he's not having any chest, arm pain, or fatigue, the new diet should help the problem. But that doesn't mean he's not having trouble with his heart.

If he's having chest pain, it's my personal opinion that he should have the cardiologist have a look see to see how bad the damage is.   It's not a time to listen to the radio commercials and have them take testosterone supplements, or nitric oxide pills.  It's a time to have him change immediately to a low-fat plant based diet. and a moderate exercise program.

I truly believe that we could have avoided both stents if we had been patient with the diet and let it do it's work, but since he was in a lot of pain, I'm glad we took a combined approach to use the medical approach for pain relief and diet to ensure future health and well-being.

You can go the medical route, totally, and take all of the medications offered and do okay, but I'm saying that having lived it, the lifestyle change approach not only prevents a heart attack but it has a high chance of ensuring well-being and taking away the looming fear of a future heart event.  Peace of mind is the result.

I strongly recommend, based on my experience, that if your husband has issues with ED and other heart disease symptoms, that you have him see a cardiologist and have a CT angiography ordered.  If there are signs of plaque, then he needs to go on the diet and stay on it, and this very well could avoid a heart event, and reverse the disease.  However, it is my opinion that everyone needs follow this diet.  I am following it myself even though I have heatlhy heart (tests confirmed).

Without violating too many sacred details, I will just say that this condition, which was so very frustrating and embarrassing has completely reversed and life for us is like it was when we were much younger.

 Do you know that that means in regards to his arterial health???????  It means that the plaque in his arteries, throughout his body is reversing.

Today I'm cooking a low-fat plant based Thanksgiving.

What's on the menu?

Bean Loaf (Jeff Novick Style)
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes (no butter or marshmallows added)
Fruit Salad
Vanilla Ice Cream (made from bananas, maple syrup a touch of vanilla, and chia seeds)
Green Salad
Whole Wheat low fat bread

Happy Thanksgiving!  I'm looking forward to many more with DH which is an awesome thought when you think that Thanksgiving two years ago might have been our last together.  I am just amazed at the miracles we have seen and the blessings we have received.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Raptured Calf and Statin Experiment

On June 14th DH ruptured a calf muscle which resulted in 3 months of resting.  He had to keep his leg up for ten weeks and not much walking happened during that time.

We blame the ruptured muscle on his statin drugs, but of course, we haven't asked the doctor for his opinion.  Healing was slow until he took himself off of the statins for a time. 

Within a week after stopping the statin he was off of his crutches and walking without assistance. 

Because he was off of the statins for four weeks, we decided to go get his cholesterol tested to see if the diet was the cause of his good numbers these past two years. 

To our delight the diet was a huge player in the numbers.  None of his numbers were diagnostic and his total cholesterol was 149. 

He wants to be further below 149 so he has since gone back on a half dose (10 mg.) of Lipitor). 

However, I wonder how low his cholesterol would have been had he been able to exercise those weeks that he was sitting with his leg up.  I'm delighted that even with his inactivity, his cholesterol was below 150 and he continued on his steady weightloss course, having lost seven pounds and one shirt size since rupturing his calf.

We will test again in a month and see how things are going.  Our opinion, independent of a professional opinion is that he doesn't need the full 20 mg. that the doctor ordered for him because he is on a low fat plant based diet. 

We'll report back again in a month and tell you how it went.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Working to Get Off Omeprazole Again

Even though this a blog about heart issues, I write here about my digestive issues because I often feel chest pains that mimic heart trouble due to GERD.

My GERD is caused by a small hiatal hernia that developed from years of being overweight and seven pregnancies.  Thankfully, it's just a small hernia, but it still gives me plenty of trouble.

Lately, I have had to go back on omeprazole due to a redevelopment of gastritis after a celiac flare up.  Yes, my GERD is also related to that.  I haven't had a flare up in about a year, but this one was nasty, lasting several weeks.

I've had much pain at the base of my esosphagus, and I went on omeprazole, temporarily, to heal it so that I don't get Barrett's esophagus, which can turn cancerous.

Along with the omprezole I took mastic gum, which is extracted from pine trees in Turkey put in powder form, and I buy it from Amazon.  I believe it is useful because it seems to kill a measure of h. pylori I might have in my system, but that is just my theory.  Mastic gum got me off of omeprazole the last time, but this time, my system was so messed up, I needed a little extra help from the omeprazole.

I also just started taking manuka honey which has been a tremendous help.  This is my favorite remedy so far as I can relieve my pain immediately from my esophagus to the middle of my gut in minutes with this product.  I just started using this a week ago and it's been so helpful, that I purchased another bottle.  Manuka honey is a very expensive raw honey I also order from Amazon.  It is very thick and it also has been known to kill bacteria.  It coats the esophagus as it goes down and, like I said, the relief is immediate.

I don't know how it would work for severe pain as I no longer let the damage get that far.

Yesterday I started taking slippery elm.  Slippery elm comes from the bark of the slippery elm tree and it is powdered and put in capsules.  It has the color of powdered bark and smells like bark.  It has been known for centuries to be beneficial to the stomach, and yesterday I took it for the first time in a long time and immediately felt relief and a feeling of wellness all day yesterday after taking it.

I've decided I've got to get off the omeprazole, or Prilosec as soon as possible because I have had widespread disabling joint pain ever since I started taking it.

I have also been doing research on licorice root in the form of DGL "Deglycyrrhizinated" licorice root, which is the safe kind.  It is very dangerous for anyone with heart issues to take the original licorice root that has not been deglycyrrhized because is raises blood pressure.  This product, DGL,  helps the stomach replenish mucous in the stomach and esophagus and there are preliminary reports that it helps to heal Barrett's esophagus.  I figure I should try it out to prevent Barrett's.

By the way, if you don't know what Barrett's esophagus is, it's a condition that develops where the esophagus cells turn into stomach cells and then chances for esophageal cancer rise a bit.  I read that the chances are 1 in 100.  So, if you have esophagitis, it's very important to get your GERD under control.

Right now mine is under control, but now I have to get off of the omeprazole so I can get rid of the joint pain and get my life back.

I'll be reporting on the slippery elm and DGL licorice in a few weeks so check back and see how I did.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Back on Omeprazole

A year ago, I wrote a post, Mastic Gum Got Me Off of Omeprazole.  Well, I am back on Omprezole.

Even though this is a blog devoted to coronary issues, I address my digestive troubles because I have GERD and GERD can mimic symptoms of heart disease.

I felt it the honest thing to do, to report that I am on Omeprazole which I was on because of my hiatal hernia.

The pain associated with my hiatal hernia results from referred pain that sits right where my heart is, and it is very disconcerting, so I went on the Omeprazole to see if it was stomach acid that was causing the pain.  Apparently, the acid is seeping up throught the hernia and burning my espophagus.

Now, I will say that a few weeks ago, I did have acute pain in my stomach, and before going on Omeprazole, I took Mastic Gum, 1000 mg. a day, on an empty stomach, in the mornings, and within three days the pain disappeared, and I am still feeling well that way, so I know it was and will continue to be a benefit in keeping me off of Omeprazole for the purpose of my stomach pain, but I fear that due to the hernia, I will have to manage my stomach acid to keep my esophagus healthy.

Just thought I would report that because my top viewed post on this blog is the one addressing my experience with Mastic Gum, and I don't want to deceive people regarding my experience.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Learning at the Master's Feet - Attending a Lecture Given by Dr. Esselstyn

On May 3rd, DH and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a conference lecture given by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. in person at the Iowa Osteopathic Association Conference.  I had heard he would be coming here so I e-mailed him and asked if there was anyway we would be able to attend his lecture.  Not only did he say yes, but he invited us and our cardiologist to be his special guest.

Later on accompanying the invitation to our cardiologist, a request was made by the cardiologist to have some time to meet, himself, with Dr. Esselstyn. Fortunately, for our Iowa Cardiologists, Dr. Esselstyn made himself available to lecture 200 local cardiologists the night before his lecture to the Iowa Osteopathic Association.

Following May 3rd's lecture a panel was also set up featuring four doctors, including Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Martin, our doctor.  

I have seen Dr. Esselstyn's lecture on YouTube many times, but to hear him lecture in person was truly a once in a lifetime experience.  He is an amazing person.  He really, really cares about people and their health, and you can just see that he is not out to get rich over what he is bringing to light.  

The panel was interesting.  I could hear cardiologists under their breath from behind me sass him as if they were teenagers.  One in particular had come in late to the lecture and had brought in her plate of scrambled eggs and sausage to eat while he spoke.  Not only did she miss the compelling evidence part of the presentation, but she was defiant and rude through the whole lecture.  This is not something I was expect in Iowa, but what I learned from this experience is a hardened heart (no pun intended) can not be reached.  

"Why was she even there?"  I wondered.

My Dh and I were amazed at the questions that were asked during the lecture.  Some of the doctors asked excellent questions like, "Have any of your patients had side effects when going cold turkey on animal protein and immediately starting a vegan diet?"  Dr. Martin turned that question over to me for the answer.  Yikes!  I'm not a member of the panel, and not a doctor, but thank you for the respect, and trust!

"Other questions were, how do we convince our patients to embrace this lifestyle?"

Many of the questions were "How much saturated fat is beneficial?"  "What types of oils provide the most heart health benefit?"

Excuse me?  Were you not listening?  No saturated fat is beneficial.  No oil.  No oil.  No oil.  

They couldn't get out of their Mediterranean diet studies and hear what the good doctor was saying.

Other questions were "How much meat can be eaten before damage is done?"  

Uh.......  No meat.  All meat is harmful......unless you eat one piece of steak out of being a vegan for decades and don't ever eat another piece.

The doctors were just not getting it and they were taking the discussion down the wrong path, trying to take the role of convincing Dr. Esselstyn that what he was suggestion just couldn't be done, saying they would never be able to get their patients to do this, that moderation had to be in the program, and so on and so forth.  

I got so fidgety I couldn't stand it any longer and finally raised my hand and told our story so that they would know that patients would do it, and that they would see a benefit.  I felt as if they were saying what they were saying because they themselves did not want to take on the lifestyle change, thereby making themselves hypocrites. I can understand that, but I had to let them know that patients that don't have options, or future options, will take on the challenge.

 The room erupted in applause afterward, and whenever a patient perspective question came up, then Dr. Martin would turn the panel to us because he has worked with us for 18 months and knows we are in it 100%.  I appreciate him for his respect and trust in us, we being two of his five patients that have tried the lifestyle.

The lecture and panel did have an influence, and our involvement did also have an influence as five doctors came to us afterwards and asked us for more information.

The most thrilling part of the day, however, was getting to shake hands with Dr. Esselstyn.  He is every bit as much of a good and generous man as I had assumed he was.  He has the most warm blue eyes, a firm handshake, and happy disposition.  To talk to him, finally, in person after several phone conversations the past 1 1/2 years was a dream realized, something I will never forget.  Dh was equally impressed. 

Dh was so encouraged by the lecture, we are now making plans to go through Dr. Esselstyn's training in Ohio.

I don't want to trample on the meat, dairy, and egg industries of the Heartland.  I don't want to dash the generational family traditions of the Midwest.  I just want to help those people who were in the same situation as my husband's.  Those who have no more options.  These are the people that are most open for change and in need of the most hope.  

Iowa needs proven dietary options and education for treating heart disease.  Going to the lecture gave me the view of what a struggle making this wonderful information available is going to be.  Even the doctors who believe the science doubt that their patients will take on with the lifestyle change.  

When the questions was asked in a room of 100, "How many of you, here, vegetarians?"  Dh and I were the only ones that raised our hands.  Not one doctor, with exception of the panelists, have taken on the lifestyle. 

Also, I just want to say that the day before the lecture I fretted that people would judge me for being fat.  I still have 30 pounds to lose, even though I have lost 50.  However, when I got into the lecture, I was amazed to see that I was the skinniest female in the room, except for the two vegan cardiologists on the panel.

Dr. Martin has lectured me on being overweight.  I know I am, that's why I was self-conscience of going to the lecture in my current state, but I didn't expect to be on the skinny side of the group!!!!  

Do we have a healthcare crisis because we are not practicing what we preach?  How can patients become well when their doctors, themselves are sick.  

The lecture was held at breakfast time and we saw several doctors eating a full plate, probably two days worth of saturated animal fat.  There was no portion control, and probably 1000 calories consumed for that one meal.  I was amazed. 

It was a very educational day for DH and me.  We could see a vision of what we can do to help other heart patients in Iowa, just by making our story available.  We had a chance to reinforce the knowledge we have obtained from reading Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, and watching the lectures on YouTube.  We had a chance to meet and chat with one of the greatest nutritional experts in our country, a true gentleman who is helping many in humanity because he cares about relieving suffering and giving hope to others.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My First SVT in 8 Months - Hiatal Hernia, Bending at the Waist on a Full Stomach

This morning I had my first SVT in 8 months.  I'm really starting to think these are really, really caused by my hiatal hernia.  This morning I woke up exceptionally hungry and ate too much oatmeal.  Then I drank 16 oz. of water.

Afterwards, I went was carrying some tomato seedlings out to the back deck.  They were sitting on a tray on the floor in my dining room and I bent over from the waist, and, "Boom!"  I felt the leap in my chest, and I knew I had done a bad thing.

My heart flip flopped momentarily like it was trying to find a normal rhythm, and then went into what I think felt like about 140 beats per minute.

I called out to my 14 year-old and asked him to get me a large drink of cold water (I will have to really go to the bathroom in an hour after having 32 oz. total of water in the last 30 minutes), and then I went down and laid on my left side.  I naturally coughed because I have a cold, and that immediately got me back into a regularly rhythm.

I think my SVT couldn't have lasted more than all of two minutes.

Now, I will say here that I tried a new technique, pushing against my eye, which was a new idea recommended to me previously,  but that shot up the rhythm to a much higher rate, and I believe it was my mental rush to get it stopped that shot up the adrenaline and caused that new vasal vagal maneuver to change things.

Everytime I try a vasal vagal meneuver it only makes things worse because my mind is messing with me.  I have learned you have to be calm to get an SVT to stop.

Lying down on the couch on my left side and thinking relaxing thoughts is the only thing that works for me, and it works fast.  When I coughed, I wasn't trying to cough or think about coughing, I've just been coughing all morning, and that worked.

I must also add here that I have never had an SVT that I know of that I haven't been within a week after my period starting, so I really, really think it has something to do with hormones being off.  Hormones control heart rhythm, and many middle aged women have palpitations because of imbalanced hormones.

I must remember, must remember, must remember not to stuff my stomach, and not to bend over at the waist!!!!!!!!!!

I am glad I have learned I can get these under control, however.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Points Made Recently by Caldwell Essestlyn, Jr., M.D. Support the LDS Health Code, the Word of Wisdom

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a set of scripture called the Doctrine and Covenants.  The Doctrine and Covenants contains in section 89, the Lord's code of health.  Here is the history of how the Word of Wisdom came to be.....

"When they (the School of the Prophets) assembled together in this room after breakfast, the first they did was to light their pipes, and, while smoking, talk about the great things of the kingdom, and spit all over the room, and as soon as the pipe was out of their mouths a large chew of tobacco would then be taken. Often when the Prophet [Joseph Smith] entered the room to give the school instructions he would find himself in a cloud of tobacco smoke. This, and the complaints of his wife at having to clean so filthy a floor, made the Prophet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conduct of the Elders in using tobacco, and the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom was the result of his inquiry."Brigham Young, Journal of Discoursesvol. 12, p. 158

Here is a link to the text of the Word of Wisdom in Doctrine and Covenants 89.

Just to summarize, the Word of Wisdom commanded members to stay away from "hot drinks".... 

 "9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.' 

 and to "eat meat sparingly" .....

" 12 Yea, aflesh also of bbeasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used csparingly;
 13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be aused, only in times of winter, or of cold, or bfamine."
In a recent advanced study conference held by John McDougall, M.D. in February 2014, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., M.D.  stated two things that really brought up my interest.  
1.  In a recent study done in Italy, caffeine was found to cause restriction in the brachial artery one hour after the consumption of coffee.  This was not found in participants who drank decaf.  I will add a note here that a similar study on this was done at the  Heart Institute, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv University with the same results.
2.  In another study done at the Cleveland Clinic, by Stanley Hazen, M.D.   patients who were vegan were given one piece of steak.  The gut flora and blood chemistry of all patients were tested.  The end result was that the vegan patients did not produce the same bad bacteria that caused toxic chemical changes in the blood known to cause damage to endothelial cells.  But, patients who regularly consumed meat did. 
In other words, eating meat sparingly, meaning once in a long term time of being vegan, was not harmful, but eating it regularly was.  
In the Word of Wisdom the Lord sanctions the consumption of meat to be conducted "with thanksgiving" during time of winter, cold, or famine.
The Lord has made provisions through His creation for us to overcome the negative effects of "bad" bacterial flora in our digestive systems when we have to consume meat for survival, if we do not consume, but only sparingly.  
I think it is wonderful that studies that Dr. Esselstyn cites, prove scientifically why the sparing consumption of meat is safe, if you are regularly living on a plant based diet. 

I think it is also wonderful that this research highlights the benefits of not eating meat at all when it comes to digestive bacterial balance, and detoxing the system.

What I take from this is that I should keep eating my low-fat plant based diet, but if I were to find myself crossing the plains to Salt Lake City in the winter, like my pioneer ancestors did, I should know that it is okay for me to eat some buffalo meat to survive.  Or, should I find myself in some similar situation in our modern times, it's okay to eat meat.

However, this should not be a rationalization for me to go back to my old ways.

I also think it is wonderful to see how science proves out the Word of Wisdom as testing becomes more technologically advanced, as does the brachial artery studies on caffeine in coffee, which the LDS people refer to as one of the two "hot drinks" listed in the Word of Wisdom, the other being tea.
To watch Dr. Esselstyn's video and get more accurate details than my laywomen's report gives in the post,  please click here. 

Before I end here, I do want to say that I champion personal choice when it comes to dietary choices because we each do, indeed, have our own balance of gut flora as individual fingerprints.  Upon realizing that, I am determined to try my best not to judge others.  I provide this information as encouragement for those who desire to lower their meat consumption, not reprimand those who choose a different approach.  I realize that in the end how we treat each other is vastly more important than making other's feel bad in effort to be the person that is right on this matter.

My DH and my son working on cutting down a "widow maker" tree that fell into another tree in our backyard.  My son is a plant based rugby player and high school cross country star, and my husband is down 55 pounds and shows no signs of heart disease after having been on a low-fat plant based diet for 18 months.  Despite the nerve wracking/blood pressure raising nature of this task, he had no ill effects on his cardiovascular system, even after being up on the lift for 8 hours in 20 mph wind gusts.  This is something he could haven't even dreamed of doing a year ago.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why I Love Being On a Low Fat Plant Based Diet

It is finally spring, now, and I'm so happy to be able to get out and do some yard work.

This is my backyard...

We bought our home last fall, and when we first moved in, I would get tired just walking up and down our hill once.  However, after six more months living on a low-fat plant based diet, a diet I have followed for 1 1/2 years, I no longer get tired.

For the past three days, since spring has begun, there has been much yard work.  I've been out working and have even been able to sprint around with no shortness of breath, chest pressure, or loss of energy.

I feel my cardiovascular health, even having just gone through winter has greatly improved.  Although I have been a vegetarian for many years, this being my second time around trying a low-fat plant based diet, (I abandoned it ten years ago when I thought it was making me sick and it turned out to be a gluten allergy), I have not experienced this type of stamina in 16 years which is pretty great because I am now a middle aged person!

The diet has not been hard to follow because I can eat when I am hungry and eat until I am full.  I do gain weight when I stuff myself which is hard not to do because the food is so tasty, but it is easily lost when I listen to my body and just eat when I am comfortably full.

Because of the carbohydrates I am consuming which are not carbohydrates obtained by sugar, white flour, and juices, I have a lot of energy.

I used to suffer from severe anxiety.  I no longer suffer from this condition, and I now know the anxiety was due to not getting enough carbohydrates in my diet.  Adding those back in, I now have mental clarity, and strength to handle the stresses of the day.  I am also sleeping better, as well.

The following conditions have disappeared since I started following the low-fat plant based diet as explained by John McDougall, M.D.  and Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., M.D.  Keep in mind, I follow a gluten free version due to biopsy diagnosed celiac disease, and some of those improvements may seem to have come from going gluten free, but I had these conditions for two years after going gluten free, so the diet definitely had an impact.......

1. Ganglion cyst in my right wrist
2.  Fibromyalgia
3.  Ulcerative colitis
4.  Gastritis
5.  Acne
6.  Exaggerated PMS (I still have a little bit but with less anxiety, I have less PMS)
7.  Cysts in breasts have shrunk
8.  Candidiasis
9.  Fluid in ears and tinnitis
10.  Low energy
11.  Knee pain
12.  Blisters on fingers
13.  SVT frequency has gone way down
14.  Pelvic pain
15.  Borderline Diabetic blood sugar.  My fasting blood sugar used to be 110 and now is 83.
16.  High blood pressure
17.  High cholesterol
18.  Neck pain and back pain
19.  Worries about about future chronic disease (I no longer have obsessive worries that I'm going to get heart disease or breast cancer)
20.  Bad breath and body odor.

A typical menu for me starts with oatmeal, blueberries, sweetened with carob powder for breakfast, a mid morning snack like a banana or apple.  For lunch I have a huge salad with a variety of chopped vegetables.  I crunch up a few Corn Chex (about ten squares) since I can't have croutons and I want a little bit of crunch in the salad, and my dressing is a mixture of lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and one small squirt of stevia.  I probably have about six cups of salad for lunch.  Mid afternoon snack is another bowl of salad, about half of what I ate for lunch, or a half bowl of oatmeal, and dinner might be a layered Mexian Lasagne with corn tortillas, beans, bell peppers, onions, corn, salsa, or baked potatoes, salad, and a low fat plant based chili.  Dinner is where I tend to over-eat, and right before bed time, Yikes!  It's just so good.  I have many dinner recipes posted on this blog that I love that are hard not to over consume.

I lost 16 pounds altogether and I have 20 more to lose, which I hope will just melt off now that I'm able to work like a horse, and love it.

As mentioned on other places on this blog, DH has lost 75 pounds and he doesn't exercise and consumes a lot more food than I do.

I come from a people of pioneer stock with very efficient metabolisms.  Gaining weight happens for  my family members just by looking at food because having gone through a few generations of crossing the Plains while pulling handcarts and taming The West, and the great starvation that came with that experience, my family developed the ability to survive on very little food.   I have pioneers on both sides of the family, so I am doomed, and both sides of the family struggle with weight problems.

We gain weight very easily from eating just normal amounts of food.  This is the only diet I have been able to stay on successfully because I don't feel hungry all of the time with all of the fiber I am eating and the food is very satisfying.  I do not feel deprived, even on those days I count calories, which I only do as a check up to see how much I am eating.

I am not a sleek and slender person, nor do I expect to be.  But, I am thinner than the trend that's running on both sides of my family, and I am healthy.  That makes me very happy.  I hope to lose more, in time, but I am making good enough progress for my feeling of well being and happiness.

This photo was taken in October 2010.  I weighed 200 pounds.  I had been on Joel Furhman's Eat to Live and lost 32 pounds over two years time.  I got down to 196 and hit a plateau.
This was taken Christmas 2012.  I had been on Esselstyn's Diet for 11 months and lost 40 more pounds.  I got down to 158 pounds.  Prior to going on Esselstyn's diet 100% I had to have my gallbladder removed.  After surgery I gained 20 pounds, which is typical after gallbladder surgery (a consequence of convalescence and being able to eat what you want).  I have maintained my weight at 179 pounds since April 2013 without calorie counting or a dedicated exercise program.  I'm expecting to lose more weight with my increased activity, but I have no plans to change my eating habits, other then stop stuffing myself to the point of feeling like I'm going to burst.  We'll see what happens, but I'm not stressed out about it because I feel so good


Thursday, March 27, 2014

18th Month Progress On DH's Heart Disease

Today DH met with his Cardiologist for his 18 month follow-up. 

Here are his numbers today....

Total Cholesterol 107    HDL  27    LDL 57     Triglycerides 117

Total weight loss 58 pounds.

Dr. Martin was very happy with him this month.  Last November he had severely reprimanded DH, even though these are similar numbers.  We think that the doctor had been stressed out that day, having to deal with so many repercussions of holiday eating of patients whom he had seen prior to our appointments that day.

Today the appointment went very well and we enjoyed very much talking to
Dr. Martin about preventative cardiology as is related to lifestyle change and the low-fat plant based diet.

We gave him the book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. and he was grateful.

I later talked on the phone to Dr. Martin's nurse and she was very curious about how we have been able to implement the diet.  I told her that when my husband developed heart disease, on the day of his first stent placement, I had decided that my new mission in life was to provide healthy and delicious meals for my family.

This I do not resent or regret, as my husband is a valuable and wonderful man, and he is a blessing to our family and to this world, and I feel like I am helping a lot of people through helping him to stay healthy.

I know that if it weren't for the principles we have put into practice that we learned from Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, my DH would be suffering from some level of disability, but he does not suffer.  He is thriving.

I am so grateful for the hope that we have been able to obtain in our lives, that years ago others did not have before Dr. Esselstyn's studies were done.  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Heart of a Crazy Woman Going Through Menopause - A Possible Explanation for My SVT's and PVC's

Yesterday, I was having amazing episodes of palpitations.  I have just finished my period, and they always ramp up during the winding down of my period.  Having just gotten over a very mild case of the flu, they were more active than usual, going through bigeminy rhythm.  When this happens, I feel a little faint and panicky.

In the middle of the night, I woke up with a panic attack.  When I have panic attacks, I feel like I'm fading out of life, like I'm going to just pass out and die, but I have learned if I get up and do something purposeful, they goes away quite quickly.  I used to have them all night long, but I have learned that distraction usually gets rid of them.

I have had another development, the past few days, where my intestines have been moving around so much that it feels like pregnancy.  It isn't painful, it just feels like I have a baby moving around in there.  So I thought, "While I'm up, maybe I should go Google "wild peristalsis" and see why I'm feeling so much movement in my abdomen.  People with celiac are very in tune to the intestines, and any changes usually prompt some sort of inquiry.  This celiac diseased person also has an acute case of health anxiety, fueled at sometimes by Dr. Google, and calmed sometimes by Dr. Google.

This time Dr. Google provided answers to a three year questioning into my perceived health problems which are real but not as serious as they are perceived.

After three years of worry for me as to why I have these frustrating PVC's and SVT's, I think I have discovered why, and this discovery has prompted ideas on the path for easing the condition.

With this somewhat unrelated Google search the 1907 written, obscure book, by Byron Robinson, M.D. came up in my search.  In the book he had three chapters devoted to the nerve ganglia of the the uterus and ovaries, and how their menopausal related death affects the intestines, stomach, and the heart.

The book is entitled, "The Abdominal and Pelvic Brain".

In very lay woman's terms, in a very short nutshell, I am glossing over here in this post, his explanation that the ovaries, are connected to the intestines, stomach, and heart, and when they begin perimenopause, there journey to death, affects the intestines, stomach, and heart.

Byron was a gynecological surgeon, who had done hundreds of surgeries not only on women, but on animals as well.  He knew the physical functioning of a women's body probably almost as well as the Creator, particularly the nervous system. What he explains is that each one of the above mentioned organs, have a "brain center", called ganglia, that are connected to each other through a very highly involved network of nerves.

Therefore, as the ovaries and uterus begin their journey through menopause and begin to die, the system becomes confused,  referred pain and response happen to areas of the abdomen located away from the female reproductive parts.  Because of this, the nervous system can no longer focus on the brain centers contained in the ovaries and uterus.  The process of perimenopause teaches the body to refocus on the remaining brain centers in the intestines, heart, and stomach,  and this refocusing takes years of time, and the body goes haywire during the process.

Because of this the perimenopausal woman develops confusing symptoms that can feel like serious disease, and he says she goes from doctor to doctor to doctor looking for a cause to her problems, often to find that nothing is noticeably wrong by the doctor.

Interestingly, I have many of those symptoms right now.

The book is very involved with lengthy explanations using medical terminology on how the nervous system that connects these organs is affected by the uterus.  I would copy and paste quotes, but they would be chapters long.  So I'm summarizing the best I can in layman's or laywoman's terms what I understand  to happen.  This may turn out to be comical because my medical knowledge is as extensive as one can get with two semesters of medical terminology.  In other words, I am not a doctor, so don't take this as medical advice, and if you are a perimenopausal person, and have concerning symptoms, go to the doctor, as I have, and make sure you have a clean bill of health before ignore your symptoms, as I am trying to do now.

Because the nervous system of the uterus is connected to that of the intestines and stomach, nausea results during several female life functions and or diseases i.e. morning sickness during pregnancy, diarrhea during menstruation, nausea in the case of ovarian cancer.   I often wondered why women who have ovarian cncer may have ongoing nausea as a first symptom.  Now I know why.  I also wondered why while nursing my babies while I was eating gave me nausea.  My explanation is now because nursing causes the contraction of the uterus.  And eating while nursing involves both the stomach and the uterus and they are affecting each other.

Problems in the uterus can cause problems with the nervous system of the heart as well.  Dr. Robinson explains that when the nerves are irritated in the uterus due to the process of going into menopause, the nerves of the heart can become irritated, as well, and cause premature ventricular contractions, or what a layman might call palpitations.  This nerve irritation can also cause supraventricular tachycardia.  Back in 1907 there was not a term such as this, but he just called it a very fast heart beat.

There is so much more I wish I had time to explain here, but I would be rewriting Dr. Robinson's book.  But, the function of the heart, and it's ability to regulate it's own rhythm independent of the brain and spine is amazing.  The affect that the condition of the intestines, stomach, uterus, and ovaries can have on the heart is also amazing.  Or, should I say that the effect that these organs can have on each other is amazing.

As a celiac, when I have "palpitations" or "SVT's", it is often after I have been cross contaminated by gluten that these irritations of my heart rhythm occur.

Also, I have discovered when I become nervous, or angry, my intestines will go into spasms, and I will then have pain in my chest, a pounding heart, and palpitations.

I have had to learn not to let myself get nervous or angry to keep my heart beating more normally.

Can this be why we are told over and over that stress causes illness?

Dr. Robinson also says that he has most often seen this derangement in the perimenopausal women begin, most often at the age of 45.  This was exactly the age it began for me, but he says he has seen it happen in women as early as 20 and as late as 70.  He also says the stormier the puberty, the stormier the menopause

As a surgeon taking care of the uterine and ovarian problems for many years, working with a female surgeon partner, and operating on hundreds
of female patients, Dr. Robinson developed a deep respect for the condition of the perimenopausal woman.

It was his feeling that a perimenopausal women must not be judged on her behavior because of the neurosis caused by her physical pain, which can be, often too hard to bear, and that just living throughout the day with normal daily activities could be too much for her to handle while going through all of these changes to her body.

I have been hard on myself the last three years that I have been going through this, and I think this is typical of most women, but Dr. Robinson's comments should give us permission to be kind to ourselves.

He said he had known women to go from doctor to doctor to doctor looking for a diagnosis to the cause of her heart symptoms, only to find that the doctors could not find the cause because she was having uterine trouble and the doctors didn't know to look for the trouble there, or know that the trouble was being caused by the uterus.

I can't tell you how validating that is for me, as I have been diagnosed with myometriosis, and enlargement of the uterus, and after many heart tests, I have been given a excellent condition label for my heart, but heart rhythms are a problem on a daily basis.  The crazy thing is, I don't have any uterine symptoms.  My condition was discovered during a pelvic exam.  But, I do have heart symptoms, and after many heart tests over the period of two years, my heart has been given the "thumbs up".  See how confusing it can be?

According to Dr. Robinson, these problems do calm down immediately with hysterectomy, or once menopause is accomplished.  The woman then becomes more stable and able to handle a little more in life.  Maybe this is God's way of making us emotionally okay with stepping out of the childbearing years, which for me, has been very hard, wanting more babies to hold.

Because perimenopause is so hard on the woman's nervous system, he says that perimenopausal women need to realize they need to not get themselves in stressful situations, if at all possible, and those around them need to understanding that they are going through a process of life that weakens them and makes them very susceptible to stress.

This is what I'm coming away with from his comments.  "Let the young one's do the work that you once did, and work on supporting your aging process by simplifying your life."

At age 47, I am starting to see signs that I am going through this with irregular periods, more intestinal distress, and more palpitations.  It's a time not to seek for perfection, and not to take on more than I can handle.  God will understand.  My kids need me to be sane since I had most of my kids later on in my childbearing years.

I hope this information can help other women in my shoes.  If you feel like crying, like you are going crazy, like your body is falling apart, an increase of anxiety, then maybe you need to take stalk of your life and get out the excess.  I know I need to do this.  I haven't done it yet, but it's something I know I need to work on.

Dr. Robinson also says that the organs that are subject to visceral nervousness are worse off if the woman's circulation is bad.  This, then, means to me that I must eat healthily, and for me that is eating a low fat plant based diet because science has proven that this is the best diet for good circulation, and I need to exercise.

I hope to give more details as to why the exercise is important but has to do with core support of the organs so that they do not flop into areas of the abdomen where they don't belong thereby cutting off the circulation they need to function properly.  Already, it has been seen when I had my gallbladder out that my liver has already done some settling into my abdomen where it doesn't belong.  So keeping the abdominal wall strong is important to keep this nervous system that connects the organs healthy.

This has been a long post.  I hope it wasn't too much reading, but I hope this summary of Dr. Robinson's three chapters on women's health is helpful.  Granted his book was written way before now, in 1907, and he didn't have the advances we have now, but he did have much exposure through surgery which puts him at advantage for understanding of how a women's body works.  I don't believe he knew anything about hormones and how they complicate things even further, but he really understood the plight of middle aged women.

For those who enjoy hefty medical reading, here is a link to his book.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sleep Breathing Problems Cured by Raising the Head of My Bed

I am happy to report that since I have raised the head of my bed four inches by putting 2x6" boards under the head legs, I have not had anymore sleep apnea, and my husband has also stopped snoring!!!!!!!!  So, I guess the theory that I read about, where blood pooling into the brain steam from lying flat can cause central sleep apnea in some people, must be correct in my case.  What a cheap and easy solution!

I might also add that I am no longer getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and very rarely wake up with a racing heart anymore.  I would blame both of these improvements on the fact that my heart no longer has to work all night with my stomach pushing up against it.

Gravity is our friend, day and night folks.

Six Months Without an SVT

I just wanted to report that this month marks six months without an SVT!  It has been nice to have a break.

Here is what I have been doing to minimize the episodes....

1. Stay gluten free
2.  Fight for getting enough sleep
3.  Drink plenty of water daily
4.  Eat very little sugar
5.  Keep my anger under control
6.  Pray daily
7.  Keep stress down as much as possible
8.  Try not to overload my stomach
9.  Take at least 100 mg of magneisum glyicnate a day.  Sometimes I take two 100 mg. pills spread out through the day if my PVC's are more frequent, or if I am experiencing anxiety
10.  Walk two miles a day.

I don't know which or how many of these measures are keeping the SVT's at bay, but I do know that in every case, I have had an SVT when I have been angry or overly upset, so when I get those feelings, I will say "The person who is making you mad is going to cause you to have an SVT if you let them.  Being mad at them is not worth it.  You need to protect yourself from having an SVT, so don't let them have the power of making you mad.  Keep yourself calm and put it on the Lord's shoulders."  SVT's are nature's way of teaching me how to forgive others, I guess.

It will be interesting to see how I fair with the SVT's in the summer because they seem to be more frequent in the summer, so I will give a report again when the temperature changes and let you all know how I'm doing.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Brain Congestion and Sleep Apnea

For the last 3 months, or so, I have had random frightening episodes, where my lungs simply don't take a breath as I am going to sleep.  I do not have obstructive sleep apnea.  I'm just slightly overweight, but my throat does not close up and I am not gasping for breath due to feeling smothered.  I just seem to "forget" to take a breath as I am drifting away to sleep.  This, then, wakes me up into a startle and then it takes two more hours to calm down enough to get to sleep.

First I looked into anxiety as being the possible cause, and it still could be.

However, so far, I have found a solution that works.

The reason I am writing about this on my "heart health" blog is because the type of sleep apnea I suffer from seems to be more related to "central sleep apnea" and not obstructive sleep apnea, and very often this is blamed on congestive heart failure.

Well,  I don't think I have heart failure.  I'm only 47 and only slightly overweight, and I can run up two flights of stairs without getting breathless and can jog without feeling short of breath.  I have a lot of energy.  My understanding of heart failure is that a person feels fatigue.  I don't. 

I also do not have any edema in my legs, which is also a heart failure symptom.

I am also writing about this on my heart health blog because sleep apnea puts a strain on the heart, and for people like me who suffer from SVT's and PVC's, lack of sleep is one of the triggers for these heart arrhythmias of mine.

One morning after suffering from a very anxiety filled night of no sleep due to not being able to breath, I prayed with my whole soul to find a solution to my problem.

I know that the safest route for me is to get a sleep study and consider doctor recommendations, but I can't afford the $1000's of dollars of testing to find out what I already know, that I am having breathing troubles, and that I need a solution.  Sleep studies are very expensive, and getting a CPAP is very expensive, so I prayed hard for ideas on how to approach this problem.

The answer came to be conservative and look up what I could find on Google about the relationship between "central sleep apnea" and sleep positions.

What I found, so far seems to be an answer to prayer
.  Here I interrupt myself for my readers to say that if this does not continue to work, I will get a sleep study and talk to a doctor and follow his recommendations.  I also interrupt myself here to say that if you have sleep apnea, I am not giving you advice, I am only telling you a story about myself and the story is not over yet.  I still may have a doctor visit in my future.

Anyway, I found the following article which seemed to explain my problem exactly......

This statement first caught my eye.....

"Sometimes, the practices taught by our culture can impact on the way our bodies function. As medical anthropologists, we research ways our cultural practices may be affecting our health. And we have found that the way we have been trained to sleep may be one of the most important causes of various diseases plaguing our society."

The next four paragraphs seemed to explain what was happening to me.....

"We all have had a time of experiencing dizziness or lightheadedness when getting out of bed too quickly. This effect is called orthostatic hypotension, and results from the fact that blood pressure falls when you lie down, and sudden raising of the head may temporarily deprive the brain of sufficient blood pressure, resulting in the dizziness or lightheadedness. The blood pressure soon rises, increasing the blood supply to the brain, as you feel normal again."

"This phenomenon shows that the body's position, relative to gravity, influences head and brain circulation. You can also demonstrate this by doing a head stand, which many yoga practitioners do daily. Intracranial pressure rises dramatically, as blood rushes to the head, which becomes beet red, and the neck veins swell out, as blood pools in the venous system."

"But apart from these examples, very little, if anything, is mentioned in medical physiology textbooks about gravity and its impact on circulation. Yet, you cannot fully understand brain circulation without considering gravity."

"The effect of gravity on brain circulation is purely mechanical, and relates to the position of the head relative to the pumping heart. When we are standing up, the head is above the heart, so blood must pump against the force of gravity -- from the heart to the brain -- lowering the effective pressure with which the arterial blood is delivered to the brain. Meanwhile, drainage of blood from the brain to the heart is facilitated by the pull of gravity."

As I read this, I begin to understand something, that my lying flat in bed, is not only causing problem with my digestive system, but also contributing congestion to my brain.

Another cause of "central sleep apnea" is brainstem malfunction.  Because I can lie on my back awake for a long time without feeling breathless, I had a hard time believing that my heart was the main problem here, and my feeling was that something was not fully functioning in my brain either.  My feeling was that something was missing in the communication of my brain to my lungs when my breathing was totally dependent on an involuntary function.

My layman's or laywoman's theory was the breathing trouble started as my consciousness transfered to the subsconcious in drifting off.

Continuing on with the article, it seemed to explain what was occuring with the breathing center of my brain while trying to sleep that didn't seem to be a problem for me while I was awake, because that was the question, "Why does my breathing seem to be great while I'm awake, and deathly dystfunctional while I'm trying to fall asleep?"

Here was the sensible explanation, "There are two ways by which sleep position can cause sleep apnea. First, if you are on your back and flat, this unnatural position allows the tongue to fall back and block the throat, causing snoring and obstruction of the airways. This is the cause of obstructive sleep apnea.""

"Second, brain edema from sleeping too flat for too long may make the brain stem sluggish and slightly dysfunctional. (I like this term, slightly dysfunctional) The brain stem is the part of the brain that controls breathing. This leads to difficulties in breathing, especially when the head is down while sleeping and getting further congested."

"This is the cause of central sleep apnea. Head elevation has already been used to treat obstructive sleep apnea, although it has been underutilized as a therapy in favor of more costly alternatives, such as the surgical removal of parts of the throat.

We believe head elevation should be tried first for all forms of sleep apnea, including central sleep apnea."

This made so much sense to me, because it seemed to fit my situation exactly.  They didn't say that heart failure was the cause, but inability of the body to rid the head of the extra blood pooling into the brainstem putting pressure on the nerves of the breathing center of the brain.  Could it be that the heart is damaged and can no longer push the blood out of the brainstem area?  

That was the first question I asked myself. But, the article states that the atrium is assisted by gravity to suck the fluids from the brain.

Here's further information from the article.....

"Of course, the body is intelligent and has mechanisms for controlling brain pressure under different gravity situations. When the brain gets pressurized from lying down, there are various pressure receptors in the head and neck designed to lower blood pressure, thereby preventing too much brain pressure and the possibility of blowing a blood vessel or creating a cerebral aneurysm. This is why blood pressure is lower when we are sleeping, and horizontal."

"But these brain mechanisms for adjusting pressure have their limits. As we go through the day in a vertical position, gravity relentlessly pulls our body's fluids downwards, which is why many people have swollen feet and ankles by day's end. Once we lie down, the gravity effect is lost, as fluid leaves the legs and returns to the head. So despite our brains normal defense mechanisms, throughout the night intracranial pressure increases and is highest in the morning, after hours of lying flat, and lowest at the end of the day, after hours of being vertical."

"What happens when intracranial pressure is high from long periods of lying flat? The increased arterial pressure causes extra cerebral spinal fluid to form in the brain's ventricles, increasing intracranial fluid pressure. The ventricles swell and the cells of the brain become bathed in excess fluid, essentially causing brain edema. This edema would lower the available oxygen and sugar for brain cells. "

"The lack of gravity assisted drainage from the brain would cause a back-up of blood in the venous system and collecting sinuses in the brain. The brain's circulation would become relatively stagnant, as the only force moving blood through would be the pushing force of the arterial pressure (which is greatly reduced after going through the cerebral circulation) and the sucking force of the heart's right atrium. And in addition to the brain swelling under the pressure, the eyes, ears, face, sinuses, gums -- the entire head -- will become pressurized and the tissues congested with fluid!"

The authors put their theories to work in studying 100 people who have migraines as they theorized also that migraine sufferers are impacted by lying flat, as well.  They studied their sufferers by having the sleep with there upper body elevated at a 30% angle.  Most of the sufferers experienced relief.  

After their study in migraine patients they started to theorize how many common problems like hypoglycemia, ADHD, and even effects caused by autoimmune disorders in relationship to the blood/brain barrier could be lessened by decreasing intracranial pressure by an inclined sleeping position.  I was amazed at the list, and could see how lying flat could actually be the cause of some of my children's health issues.  

So, I have been lying flat for 6 days now and here are the benefits I have already experienced....

1.  24 of the six nights I have slept 6 - 8 hours with uninterrupted sleep.  (2 of those 6 nights were interrupted by family members needing me in the middle of the night)

2.  My nightmares have been transformed into pleasant dreams.

3.  I have not had a night-time panic attack since the first night (I usually wake up around 12:00 or so with my heart pounding and a panic attack.

4.  My husband, who is also sleeping on the same incline has stopped snoring.

5.  Neither one of us are getting up in the night to go to the bathroom.

6.  Increased daytime feeling of wellness.

7.  A marked decrease in premature ventricular contractions of my heart (PVC's)

8.  Last but not least, no waking up gasping for air, or feeling oxygen starved as I drift off to sleep, and no notice of my breath ceasing.

If this didn't work my next step was to buy a recliner to sleep in.  If that didn't work, I was on my way to the doctor.

I figured that the sleep apnea had not killed me in the 3 or so months I have randomly experienced it, so I felt I could put off seeing the doctor (can't get into to see her anyway due to her busy schedule) for a couple weeks.

This experiment is only under a week long, but it seems to be working and in any case, I am glad to have had six nights of peace of mind.

So, how did we accomplish this incline?

Since we view this as an experiment, my husband put two 2 x 6 boards under the legs of the bed.  If it continues to work we will put in a more permanent solution.  
I am not using any more than just my regular one pillow, and I feel as I am still lying flat, even though I am now sleeping at an incline.  I am even able to roll over and sleep on my stomach.

It seems to be working and I will report on my further findings in a few weeks!  

If this helps me to ease some of my anxiety, and my heart arrhythmias, I would be really grateful!  I will let you all know how it all goes after I have a good length of time to test it out.

Hmmmm....maybe if I get more sleep, I'll lose more weight too!  We'll see.  I'll let you know!



Falling Asleep at the Wheel? You Might Want to Have Your Heart Checked

Ever since 1996, DH has had trouble staying awake while he's driving.  My daughter and I have spent many a road trip scratching Daddy's back, talking to him "until we're blue in the face", and sprinkling water on his neck to keep him awake while he's driving.

Of course, we would switch off with him, but, he being the primary driver of the family would start to shake his head within an hour of the drive to wake himself up.

Well, that problem no longer exists.  Yesterday was the first time we have taken a long road trip since his heart surgeries, and he was able to drive the whole way without getting sleepy.

Now, I'm not saying that just because a person gets sleepy behind the wheel, he has heart disease.  I get sleepy behind the wheel too, but I rarely get more than four hours of sleep being a mom of seven kids.

He gets a full night of sleep, and he's still sleepy.  If I have my full night's sleep I can drive for a couple hours before I get sleepy.

But, this sleepiness that he did have before his stents were placed was only minutes into the drive and in the middle of the day, not hours into the drive and in the evening hours.  It was an unusual problem compared to the sleepiness of most people.

Yesterday, he mentioned how happy he was that he no longer feels it.  And he never complained about it, during the first five hours of our trip yesterday.

After five hours of driving, my son finally gave him a spell, but 30 minutes later, after a brief nap, he was offering to drive again.

We see a lot more road trips in our future!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What It Took for Me to Commit to Change and An Artery Health Report in Relationship to Diet Vs. Exercise

Over the past year, in an effort to connect with other patients who have gone through what DH has gone through I have discovered many posts in various forums written by young-ish athletic men who have reported learning they have heart disease.  A typical post would say something to the effect, "I was running on the treadmill today and I felt tightness in my chest (and some reported just left arm pain).  This surprised me because I am very healthy and I exercise everyday.  I went to the doctor and now I'm on such and such medication because my cholesterol was such and such... or I ended up with a stent placed and I'm scared about my future......."

Exercise is protective against heart disease because it promotes the production of nitric oxide in the body.  Nitric Oxide helps to keep the arteries from hardening by healing the lining of the arteries which is made up of endothelial cells.  Endothelial cells need nitric oxide to heal when they are assaulted with something that causes them to become inflamed.

I'm calling the "person" above "young-ish" because he should be young enough to not develop heart disease, around the age of 40 or 50.  He's been running for many years, and because of this he has led himself to believe he is invincible.  He has confidence in his health, because of the running, but what he does not realize is that he is not 20 or 30 anymore, and his digestive system, through the process of overuse and aging, produces nitric oxide at much lower levels in his middle age years.  While running helps to produce it and helps to protect the arteries, he may not have enough because his body is not making it to the level it did in his earlier years.

I need to report that I believe that exercise is one thing that helped my husband, who was unknowingly  living with two severely blocked arteries, keep from having a heart attack.  I know this because he had developed collateral arteries that ran from the 100% blocked right coronary artery to his left anterior descending artery.  For lucky people like my DH, collateral arteries, sometimes, develop over a period of time because of exercise demands.  We are blessed that he was exercising, and it prevented a heart attack for him, but it did not prevent severe heart disease, and it time he would have had a heart attack.

A few months prior to DH's need for a visit to the catheterization lab, he noticed that when he did something strenuous, he would have mild left arm pain that would decrease as the activity went on.  I believe the relief in pain through exercise was due to the nitric oxide produced by the exercise.  But, this was not the case as he got closer to needing his stents which, at that time, resulted in almost constant chest and arm pain.

Despite the protection that DH did have from his exercise routine which was playing tennis two times a week and walking briskly 20 minutes a day, exercise did not prevent him from developing heart disease.  Despite exercising daily, he still had high cholesterol.  Researchers have now changed the magic number of ideal cholesterol from 200 down to 150 and high now means over 150, if you want to be heart attack proof. DH's was hovering consistently from 200 to 215 for many years.  Except for during our early marriage when we were eating scrambled eggs and hotdogs for breakfast, his cholesterol rarely went above 215.

I do know a lot of people that have high cholesterol even though they exercise on a regular basis.  A combination of a proper heart healthy diet and exercise provides more protection to the heart than exercise alone.  I have experienced this for myself, as I have gone through my three year journey to incorporate both into my life.

I am not saying that if you are a big meat eater, but you are a long distance runner, that you are still going to develop heart disease.  I am just saying, that don't bet your odds that you aren't developing heart disease, just because you are a distance runner.  A lot more plays into it, family history, triglyceride levels, etc., for me to just flat out say, if you eat the Standard American Diet you're going to have a heart attack, even if you run, but who knows what is going on in the arteries?  For me, myself, I want to know that I am doing everything I can to protect them.  I'm putting the effort in to keep them healthy by exercising, why lower my odds of heart protection with being reckless with what I eat?

In regards to heart protection, diet should be considered most important before exercise.  But, then as one is able to obtain a permanent change in diet, exercise should also be pursued. Of course, if you are a runner, it's going to be so much easier to just focus on diet, since you already have the second half down.

At the end of this post I am posting a  video posted by Micheal Greger M.D., who scours medical research which he makes available on his website

This interesting video shows that vegans who do not exercise have healthier arteries than long distance runners who are not vegan.

To me, if a person feels the need to change to a lifestyle that is more heart protective, it would be best to focus energies on learning how to eat a low-fat plant based diet first, and then when that lifestyle has been mastered one can direct the new energies found (as when I did this I found my energy increase greatly), to adding regular exercise.

This discovery for me was so relieving because, throughout my life, I have been unsuccessful in working on the diet and exercise lifestyle changes at the same time.

I have experienced the hard work of educating myself on how to follow a low-fat plant based diet for exactly two years now.  I was following this diet a year before my DH jumped on board.  I can say that it was not easy at first because I did not fully understand that I needed to be totally committed to this change until a little over a year ago.  What it took was a lot of reading, blogs, books, watching seminars on YouTube, etc. so I can learn and follow the model set out by others in following this diet.  I had to commit myself to being willing to try new foods, and most importantly, I had to realize I had to spend more time in the kitchen.

If you want to learn more about a heart protective low-fat plant based diet, you can look throughout this blog, and a good place to start is  Stumbling on this web site two years ago started me on my journey, and just in time for me to learn about the lifestyle as my husband was coming to need it.

I know committing oneself to the kitchen, as I learned I had to do, is not what most people want to hear. We have "places to go and people to see."  But, for me, I got so sick from my breaking down health that I couldn't get off the couch to go to those place, and see those people.

One day I had to say to myself, "You have to make an appointment with yourself in the kitchen everyday.  You are no longer designing a bedroom, or a living room, or a craft, or a future dream home, or trophy children, you are designing a healthy you, a healthy husband, and healthy children."

To help my husband, I realized that my new mission in life was to become a low-fat plant based chef in my own home.  The result of that is I was also helping myself.

For me, this also meant realizing I needed to give up my expensive gluten-free junk food (I'm a celiac) in order to make more money in the food budget to buy things like red bell peppers, pomegranates, and other fresh foods and vegetables that would make the diet more exciting.

For my family, that also meant giving up their junk food, and by not spending $3.50 on that extra carton of ice cream I was able to buy 3 to 4 pounds of oranges, or a nice, fresh ripe pineapple, or two pounds of black grapes, which for most of us in my household is like candy.

 Interestingly, what I found was that our grocery bill actually ended up going down $200 a month (and a couple months it went down $400!) with me being more organized and giving up the junk foods.

In addition, I also found that by staying on this diet and committing more time in the kitchen, the need to run out of the house for a quick meal to feed the family was eliminated. As a result, we are also saving about $100 to $200 a month on our food bill by not dining out.

Dh now takes oatmeal and baked potatoes to work to eat for his lunch and we are saving $50 a month on his lunch out budget.

In addition he was able to drop his heart medications, so that saves us monthly, as well!  He does have to stay on his very low dosage of Simvastatin, just because the doctor wants to keep his existing plaques from rupturing, but with a total cholesterol of 128, he does not need the Simvastatin for cholesterol control.

Other than that, neither he, nor I are on any other medications, no blood pressure meds, no insulin, no anxiety meds, (once prescribed for me but never taken and no longer needed), no antacids, no stool softeners, no steroids, no anti-inflammatories, no hormones, no thyroid meds (although I might end up on those due to the past damage from celiac disease).  How many middle-agers can get away with that?

All of this change effected a 20 pound weight loss the first year and maintenance the second year.  I had lost 30 pounds prior to that on another vegan diet that allows unrestricted fat, and I'm happy with my accumulative 50 pound weight loss and my weight maintenance of three years, which I have never been able to do my whole life.

This lifestyle change also resulted in a 30 point drop in my total cholesterol, down to 180.  I'm still working for that 150.

What has pleased me over this past year, in particular, is I have been able to sleep better, have more energy, and have the stamina to meet the increasing demands of my five remaining boys at home, three of which are busy teenagers.  My Raynaud's syndrome, a condition that makes my toes go numb when I get cold, has greatly improved in that I have only had two attacks this winter, and I used to have them daily.

In addition, I now have the energy to incorporate exercise into my daily routine, which I hope will help me to lose the last 20 pounds that I need to lose to get myself out of the overweight category on my BMI measurements, and get my cholesterol down to 150.

Never in the 24 years that I have been a mother, have I had the energy to run.  This week, however, I was able to run 1/2 mile, and I can walk 3 miles before I become fatigued.

 I can feel my cardiovascular system getting stronger, and my legs and arms getting stronger.  I feel muscles in my core that I have not felt before in 25 years, and I am no longer breathless when I exercise, so I feel my arteries must be cleaner.

I am not seeking to be a slim and trim beauty.  Losing weight used to be a vanity issue for me, but how I look to others is no longer my motivator.

I am old enough in years to know it is the spirit and a person's cheerful countenance that makes them attractive to others.  In my middle age years, I don't need, nor do I obsess with impressing anybody with how I look.

What I want is to get my weight down so that I can take the pressure off of my knees because the years when my BMI was 50% (and it's now 29%), my knees suffered a lot of damage, and even now that my weight is down, I suffer daily from mild to moderate knee pain.

My knees are a daily reminder, and daily motivator to keep moving, and yes, it hurts some days to exercise, but on those days I keep the impact low.  Lately, however, I feel that my knees are getting stronger, and I'm sure that is a result of the exercise, and the strengthening of my thigh muscles, and probably a result of wearing some better shoes too.

Having the motivation to save my knees and protect my heart, I have been able to exercise 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week for four months, except for two weeks when the VHS I was using to play my old Walk Away the Pounds Videos died.  I couldn't bring myself to pay $80 at Walmart to buy a new one, so I had to wait until one came up at Salvation Army for $10, and that took two weeks.

Anyway, with the four months of exercise, what I am feeling is muscle tone in my legs, and a stronger heart, and I am grateful to discover that a woman in her late 40's can feel better than she did at 30 years-old by sticking to a goal to change lifestyle, even though the implementation of that goal has taken two years.

I hope this will encourage those, particularly of middle age, who are seeking to make a lifestyle change for a healthier heart.  What I have learned is....

1. To be patient with myself.  If I failed to day, I can start again tomorrow.  It's not the end of the world.  I'm on a journey, and my goal is to stick with it, not abandon it when I miss one day.

2.  Lifestyle change comes overtime, not overnight.

3.  As the change comes bit by bit, so do the improvements, and some day years down the road, as it was in my case, you realize, "Hey, I'm doing so much better than I was two years ago!"

4.  No matter what your age, your body can heal.  Sure, some of the things that we do to ourselves can permanently damage us. For instance,  I can't reproduce the cartilage I have lost in my knees, but despite some loss of function, I belive I can and we can become better than we were.

For a middle age person, feeling better than I was, and having my DH feeling better than he was is a happy thing.  We are moving forward in health as we age, not back.  We feel younger and we look younger than we did a year ago, and that is a great blessing for two old codgers like us.  It as least gives us the feeling that we can be more useful than we thought we were going to be, which is a very happy thought.  It makes the time in the kitchen and in our exercise outfits worth it.

Here is Dr. Michael Greger's video.....

I hope you enjoy it.

Here's to moving forward to better health and happier days ahead!