Humbling Experience

Jefferson Awards

When I decided to walk across America for heart disease, I knew it was the right thing to do.  When we decided to start a nonprofit to help others, it sure felt right, although the red tape, regulations, and legalities made me wonder a bit.  Since that time, there have been moments when I thought, geez, it would have been much easier to retire and play golf.

Retirement dreams come in all sorts of sizes and packages, but I’m really not ready for that.  Yep, I ditched the corporate America job, and as I said in my book, I pretty sure I am heading down the right path.  It is a calling, it is what I am “supposed to do”, and in turn, it is probably the hardest thing I have ever done.  It requires reinventing yourself, and at age 54, I wondered if I was up for the task.

My first thought was to improve my value to the newly formed organization, relating to heart health, of course.  I figured it was probably too late to go to med school, so the idea was to learn about fitness, an integral part of heart health.  I studied for, and passed, the National Academy of Sports Medicine exam to become a Certified Personal Trainer, which, is no easy task.  It took about 6 months and was as hard as any college class I have taken.  Either that, or studying when you are older is harder (probably a combination of both).  At least this time I was sober when taking the exam lol, just kidding, we did drink a bit in college, but I never took an exam drunk, at least as far as I can remember.

Anyways, with my CPT in hand, I decided to get another accreditation, this time another three-letter acronym starting with the letter “C” CPR.  That was easy.  So, move on to the next step, get certified to teach CPR.  Done.  The last piece is to become nutrition certified.  I have that in the plans for the next few months.

All of this knowledge will help our organization, and help me help others learn how to live more heart healthy, but it is a long tough road.  Who would blame me for either semi-retiring, now at age 55, or going back into the familiar world of telecommunications?  Believe me, I have thought about it often.  Fold up shop, give our money to another worthy charity, and take the path of least resistance.

Then came the Jefferson Awards, which is a pretty big deal, after all, Joe Torre was being honored for his good work, and was the keynote speaker.  Other national honorees over the years include John Glenn and Condeleezza Rice, holy cow, this is a big deal.

My friend, and one of Walk For The Beat’s board members, whose heart is in the right place, happens to work for Vodafone.  They are a large telecom company  with a presence here in the United States, and they happen to be a sponsor for the Jefferson Awards.  Therefore, they participate, and internally select “exceptional employees” to represent their company at the ceremony.

To be considered an exceptional employee, you must demonstrate that you did something good for your community.  Mark told our story to Vodafone, he was nominated by a peer, and we were selected for an award, and a grant from the company.  How cool is that?  In doing so, we were invited to attend the Jefferson Awards, which was being held in Washington D.C.  Excellent, this would provide us some visibility, a couple of days in the nation’s capital, and a few bucks to put towards our cause, or at least that’s what I thought would be most beneficial.

Not so fast mister.  Sure those are nice things, but what we walked away with was more valuable in our humble opinions, and I use the “humble” word, purposefully.  Let me start by telling you about the Jefferson Awards.  They honor people and organizations that have dedicated their lives to helping others.  We were able to listen to 60+, one minute speeches from these good folks, about what they are doing, and of course why.  it was awe-inspiring.

For about two hours, it was an endless stream of tears, not so much in listening to the challenges they faced in their lives, but for the impact they are having on others.  One that really has stuck with me, was a young girl, now probably in her mid 20’s, who was bullied in Jr. High School.  It was so bad, that she wrote a note to her parents telling them how much she loved them, but she decided that she couldn’t take living like that anymore.  It was a suicide note.  The bullies convinced her that she was worthless.  She attempted suicide, and fortunately, she failed.

Many therapy sessions later, she is a sophomore in college, and one of her counsellors asked her to talk about her story to a group of kids who were identified as having a similar experience.  Low self-esteem, etc.  That catapulted her into a new passion.  She found that she is really good at these types of speeches, and figured out that she can help many others, who share the same feelings she once felt.  From there she started a nonprofit organization, and has dedicated her life to this mission.  Truly extraordinary!

These stories came fast and furious, with each one being as impactful as the one before.  Mark and I were touched.  We later talked about what is important in life.  I had been through this “epiphany moment” after my coronary artery disease diagnosis, and now it was cool to share that feeling with my friend, although on a bit different level.  He asked if working the old 9-5 job was really what mattered.  Where should priorities lie?  What is truly important in life?  We just touched on those things a bit while walking around D.C., but I sense that Mark was doing a bit of introspection, which is good now and then, in my opinion.

I am a bit older than Mark, and my kids are grown and out forging their own paths in life, but Mark has a 4 year-old.  My advise, since I am such an experienced sage now, was that yes, your job is important.  You have to provide for your family and there is tremendous value in that, both for your family, and your own personal satisfaction, knowing that when you look back, you provided a good life for your loved ones.  The questions then remain, what more can we do to “make a difference” in the bigger scheme of things?  What should we do?  How do we prioritize it?  And of course the big one, what fulfills us?  Those are some pretty deep questions, and I know this, my story has not yet been fully written.

I have a two-year head start on Mark, and I know where I am going.  The Jefferson Awards only further cemented the notion that we are doing the right thing with our time, money, and effort to help people avoid, fight, and deal with all the issues surrounding heart disease.  It’s my thing since it affected me, so now my advice is find your thing and follow your heart.  I guess when it is put that way, there really isn’t any question about it.

Chuck

 

 

 

 

 

There’s Always A Way

Taking steps towards good health

I’m proud of sister-in-law Mary.  She leads an active life, more active than most, and I think she will tell you that a lot of that activity is self-induced.  She has a full-time job and has a very busy social calendar with events, etc.  There are a lot of people I know like that, most everyone these days, and many say they are too busy to exercise.  But does that have to be the case?

I won’t tell you how old Mary is in fear of retribution, however she has a few years on me.  Let’s just say she isn’t a millennial.  So, with all the activities going on in her life, how does she have time to exercise?

First off, if you have been following along, we classify walking as exercise.  For those that aren’t necessarily looking for that beach body physique, those of us 50+, walking is a great exercise with many benefits including relieving stress.  There are more than 10 muscles being used at the same time when you walk, and the heart is one of them.

Mary found time in her busy day by getting up 40 minutes early and hitting the pavement.  She jokes that the first time she ventured out, that she only made it to the cemetery, which is only about 300 yards away.  Over time, however, she has added a little more distance each week and now her morning stroll extends upwards to two miles.

She is a phone person.  In the old answering machine days she once left a message on our machine that nearly used up the whole tape, with the message at the end to simply call her back, lol.  Let’s just say she like to talk and is good at keeping a conversation going.  Anyways, she uses this time to get in her daily call with one of her boys, something she values very much.  This keeps with her active go-go-go lifestyle in that she is using the time to accomplish other tasks as well as getting in her exercise.

Two lessons can be learned, three if you are new to this blog, 1) walking is exercise, 2) start slowly and you will be surprised how all of a sudden you are walking a couple of miles a day, and 3) you can fit it into your day with a little extra discipline.  I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about a 4th lesson, walking can be enjoyable.

Have fun and be good to your heart.  Take a dedicated walk every day, the cemetery can wait.

Chuck

 

Are All Weight Loss Plans Good For You?

Female Doctor Nutrition LabelMaintaining the proper weight as we age is certainly a good thing.  A good rule of thumb to see if you are the proper weight for your height is the BMI formula.  BMI stands for body, mass, index.  It is not the end all be all, but it will tell you if you could stand to lose a few pounds.

The BMI formula is:  your weight/your height in inches squared x 703.  For example, if you are 6 feet tall (72 inches) and weigh 170 pounds, it would be 170/(72×72)x703, or 170/5184 which equals .03279 times 703, which equals 23.05.

That number falls in the normal category.  18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal weight, 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, while over 30 is considered obese.  Again, it’s not the end all be all, which means it doesn’t mean you are unhealthy or at high risk for disease if your BMI is say 26. but it gives you a general idea of where you should be in terms of weight.

With that said, and you believe that you should lose a few of those excess pounds, the question is, how do you go about it?  There are dozens if not hundreds of programs out there, are they all good?  Are they all safe?  Do they all work?  Is any weight loss good weight loss?

The answer to the last question is yes and no.  Gotcha didn’t I?  Your probably thinking, what do you mean, yes and no?  That doesn’t help me.  Allow me to explain.  Sure, if you are overweight, losing that extra weight is good, but it is possible that more harm than good could be done in terms of your health, if you go about it the wrong way.

From a fitness perspective, it is important to first determine your goal.  Why do  you want to lose weight?  To look better?  To fit in an outfit for an upcoming event?  To improve your long-term health?  All are good reasons.  I favor the last of course, but regardless, there are many ways to go about it.  Then there is the question of how much weight you want to lose, and how fast you want to lose it.  I suggest being realistic here and making smart decisions.  For example, excessive, quick weight loss may not be healthy, and it may not be sustainable, which means you will be back in the same boat in a couple of short months.

We advocate a sensible program for losing weight.  This includes a well thought out and executed exercise program, along with monitoring calories while keeping a close eye on where those calories come from.  This includes having a sensible ratio of carbs, fats, and protein.  That way, you will accomplish your goal, and it will be easier to maintain over the long haul.  After all, good health that lasts a lifetime is what we all should strive for.  Here is a common understanding of weight loss, burn more calories on a daily basis than you take in, and you will lose weight.  It isn’t rocket science.

I will close by telling you what I tell everyone, check with your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or before starting any exercise program.  Also, to get more detailed information about a good nutrition plan, check out our friends at StrongerUFit.com.  The testimonials will blow you away!

 

Current Reality

Depression, anxiety, and a feeling of hopelessness affects a lot of people.  Many people are fighting these feelings, and they can be caused a host of different things.  The loss of a loved one, the lost of a job or even a change in jobs, financial problems, retirement, and poor health are some of the things that can lead to depression.

When someone has anxiety or depression, all the logic in the world may not be enough to bring them out of it.  One thing that occurs is that in their mind, whatever current reality the person is dealing with, seems like a permanent reality.  But is it?

One example is that many people obsess over losing a job.  Sure it is important to make a living and be able to put a roof over your head and food on the table.  However, does it mean you are going to be unemployed forever?  Many people didn’t even like their job, but are now upset they don’t have it, and the feeling of hopelessness creeps in.  Just remember, this isn’t necessarily your permanent reality.  You have the ability to bounce back and potentially bounce back better than you were before.

This holds true for many of the causes of depression and anxiety.  People feel their current reality is one that will last forever.  In the vast majority of cases, it won’t, however that piece of logic often doesn’t resonate with a depressed person.  That is where the professionals come in, along with patience, understanding, and love.

These feelings are real and they can be debilitating.  These feelings are stressful and of course that has consequences on your heart health.  Educating ourselves in this area is important, both for the people who have these types of feelings, and their loved ones.

 

Medication vs a Healthy Lifestyle

Cholesterol reducing drugs are very popular these days.  There are known side effects, but in general, they do what they are supposed to do; lower cholesterol.  The million-dollar question is, should a person take them, or can they control their cholesterol by living a healthier lifestyle?

Well, I guess I could be a one-person case study (small sample size I know, but it never stops me from sharing my story so it can help others make better decisions regarding their situation).  My cholesterol was off the charts bad, and I didn’t know it until I turned 50.  Sure, I led a relatively healthy lifestyle, which to be totally honest, probably saved me from the great beyond.  I exercised 3 to 4 days a week, ate reasonably well, and I don’t smoke.  All good stuff.  Still the genetic cholesterol was wreaking having inside my arteries.

When I turned 50 I had a physical examination with a doctor I hadn’t seen in years, and he told me I had high cholesterol.  I don’t recall the HDL and the LDL numbers at that time (of course that is vitally important), but the total cholesterol number was 269.  He recommended I go on a statin, but I knew better (sure I did).  I thought I could affect the cholesterol numbers in a positive way by doing more of the good things, like staying active, and eating less of the bad stuff, like fried foods, etc. 

It worked to some degree.  I reduced my total cholesterol down to 229, but I have come to find out, my LDL, which is the bad cholesterol, was near 200, which is really, well, awful, and my HDL, the good cholesterol, was too low at 36, which is also, well, awful.  The perfect storm. 

So, in my case, I have found that lifestyle changes would not help me entirely.  I was a candidate for statin medication and fought the notion.  I am much more educated on the subject these days after my run in with heart disease, and that is what is critical in terms of making better decisions than I did in the past; information and rational thinking.

Moral of the story, know your numbers and know what they mean.  Honestly assess your lifestyle and determine if you can commit to truly living heart healthy.  Also, if possible, know how long you have lived with high cholesterol.  If it has been years, as in my case, you may need more help than just changing your diet and exercise habits, as damage may already have been done.