Tuesday, September 15, 2009
We're halfway through National Cholesterol Education Month, a time to bring attention to one of the biggest indicators of heart disease. It kills more than half a million people every year. I thought I’d highlight this topic pointing some important factoidsl for you to think about.
So, what is cholesterol? According to the National Institutes of Health (the Diseases and Conditions Index), cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced naturally in your body and is also found in some of the foods you eat. Over time, excessive amounts of it can build up on the walls of your arteries preventing adequate amounts of blood from reaching your heart. This can lead to chest pains, a stroke, or even a heart attack. Some people may experience shortness of breath or may be come light headed. That’s what happened to my grandmother quite often. She would get light headed and dizzy if she over exerted herself too much or if she became excited.
The important thing to note about cholesterol is that sometimes, there are no visible signs that you may have a problem. Just like with blood pressure or with glucose levels, you can’t always know unless you get tested. It is another one of those “silent killers” that is responsible for many deaths. While diet, weight, and physical activity – things you can control – are the biggest factors impacting cholesterol, it can also be impacted by age and heredity – things beyond your control. Even though age and heredity are beyond your control, you can counteract them through lifestyle changes. Even some people who maintain a healthy lifestyle still have a cholesterol problem, indicative of the many cholesterol drugs on the market. Therefore, you need to have it checked to be sure.
If you haven’t had your cholesterol checked or if it has been a while, make plans to have it checked soon. It just might save your life.
Disease and Conditions Index, National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Cholesterol Education Month
Friday, September 11, 2009
Sometimes, our friends and relatives can be an important part of our weight loss journey. That’s one of the premises of Sparkpeople.com – people supporting each other (“sparking” each other) to achieve their goals. That’s why you should let everyone know that you’re striving to shed some pounds. Nobody really needs to know how much you’re trying to lose. Whether you need to lose 50 or 10 or 80 or 15 pounds – or whatever – is really a private matter. But the fact that you need to lose definitely should be shared.
Let’s say you and your sister or a good friend are out at the mall and you pass by Cinnabon. The aroma draws you in, and before you know it, you have put down about 800 calories for the regular Classic Cinnabon. If you get the Caramel Pecan Cinnabon, you’re looking at 1000 calories, and that’s just for one. Even the small Cinnabon Bites will rack up 500 calories a piece; however, I don’t want to beat up on Cinnabon. You can choose any number of food court restaurants. Most of them will likely make it difficult for you to maintain your diet. Same thing for times when you’re hanging out at home snacking too much, and after you’re done eating, you probably start feeling guilty. This happens all the time. It has happened to me a few times.
Having a buddy who can nudge us (and we can nudge them) when we're about to slip is just an extra layer of security, especially in the early stages of your dieting. Obviously nobody can control what we put into our mouths but us; however, a little encouragement from a buddy could be just the thing to keep from falling off that wagon. So, go ahead and keep sharing your goals. It might be the secret ingredient to your long-term success.
Friday, August 28, 2009
With the Swine Flu going around – or the H1N1 virus as it is referred to by some – as well as the many other strains of the flu that are circulating, people are lining up for their flu shots. This year more than ever, advocates are recommending the shot, especially for people in high risk groups, such as (1) the elderly, (2) children, (3) persons with a chronic medical condition, and (4) people working in the health care field including public safety rescue workers; however, I know of several people who don’t fit into these categories who get their shots every year. Is it paranoia or preventive medicine? I have never had one. I have always been in pretty good health, and knowing that there is sometimes a shortage of the influenza vaccine, I figure that plenty of people are more in need of a shot than I am.
Lately, I have been wondering whether I ought to get a shot. The few times over the years when I got the flu, my body’s immune system kicked into gear and I was back to normal without much wear and tear. One time when my doctor told me I had the flu virus, I didn’t feel any more sick than when I had a run-of-the mill cold.
I guess like anything else that can impact the body, the flu affects people differently. Do you ever get a flu shot? I think I’ll pass again this year. Until my body really needs it, I’ll let someone get my shot who may have a greater need for it. There'll probably be another shortage again this year.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I was thinking last night about how hard it can be to do more physical activity when you work in an office environment. That can make it hard to get any exercise. If you’re like me and sit behind a desk all day, the only exercise you may get is walking down the hall to the bathroom. That’s not good, especially if you have as a goal to get in at least 10,000 steps. So, here are five easy things that I use to help get me more mobile in the workplace.
First, if you have to go down the hall to another office or to another floor, don’t take the quickest route. Take the longest route, and if possible take the stairs rather than the elevator. That is great to get the blood flowing and your heart rate up.
Second, get an exercise stress ball to keep at your desk. They can vary in their dimensions, however, most are about the size of a plum. Squeezing them can help relieve stress. They can also be good to relieve symptoms of carpal tunnel. The flexibility of your hands as well as improved grip is also a benefit of a stress ball. They are relatively inexpensive. The one I bought cost $4.99, but I have seen them for as much as $6 or as little as $2, depending on where you get it and any sales or discounts stores may offer.
Third, try marching in place. If you have a letter, e-mail, or report to read, simulate a forward march from your chair. Simply lift your legs, one after the other, at your own pace. This movement will help strengthen your calf muscles and tighten your abs.
Fourth, stand up and stretch. Extend your arms straight up in the air, as if you’re trying to grab the ceiling. Stop for 15-20 seconds then reach down, with your knees only slightly bent, stretch your arms down toward the floor. Stretching is good to help increase your flexibility and balance.
Fifth and last,raise your heels resting all of your weight on your toes and hold for 5 seconds before going back down again. Do this several times for a 1-2 minute period. This can help stimulate the muscles in your legs and ankles. If necessary, use your desk, wall, or file cabinet to help you maintain your balance; however you should strive to do this without any help.
These are simply things you can do not only at work, but also at home. With a little creativity, you can devise many of your own exercises. Every little movement burns some measure of calories. The more you do, the more calories you burn.
Let’s Get Physical!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
In my quest to distance myself from my high-priced gym and do more workouts at home, I purchased the Cardio Blast DVD with Coach Nicole, and I took some time to work through the workouts. This is a great choice and would make a very good addition to anyone’s workout. Here is why I like it.
The first plus is the cost: I ordered it from the Spark Store www.sparkpeoplestore.com/prod
The DVD costs $15.50 (plus shipping). This is a very competitively priced workout DVD. In addition, the DVD has six tracks of varying degrees of intensity, and each one begins with a warm-up lasting approximately 3 1/2 minutes. As indicated on the DVD insert, you may do each workout individually in any order, or do them sequentially. A feature that I especially like is the ability to customize your workouts. If you choose the “Intermediate” customizable workout for instance, you are taken through track 3 & 4 (a kickboxing routine and a high-impact jumping routine, respectively). The customizable workouts are made up of 2, 3, or 4 of the six tracks. No matter what your goal may be, whether you want a hard workout or something more at the beginner level, you’re bound to find this Cardio Blast DVD useful.
I looked at this DVD very objectively and had trouble finding any shortcomings. The only drawback I could find is the warm-up routine. Each of the six tracks begins with the same identical 3 1/2 minute warm-up. To break up the monotony, I would like to have seen a different warm-up for each track; however, that was just a minor downside. Overall, it is a great DVD and I highly recommend it for anyone looking to do more cardio at home.
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