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Wise Politicians should think before they speak …

“My Body, My Choice.” Make up your mind, Teddy!

What are people doing with their minds these days? It’s one thing that people have strong opinions about things, but they tend to blather about their strong beliefs which have no real basis or are contrary to their own opinion. I hate talking politics, but let me use Ted Cruz as an example since he just said something moronic this weekend.

For example, Ted Cruz is against abortion. He’s also against athletes taking a knee in protest of their beliefs. This weekend he sent out an antivax tweet that said, “My body, my choice.” Hello? Hello? Ted? Theodore? Whoever you are? Do you have an evil twin that texts for you sometimes? How do I know which Ted not to vote for? Like, Ted, Teddy, Theodore? Please be sure that when you start printing posters for the next election, you decipher which Ted is running because I’m confused.

Our New Society

In case you haven’t noticed, our societal behavior has changed. When I was a kid, we had Civics as a full-time subject in school. We talked about elections, how congress works, and sometimes even helping an old lady to cross the street. It was exactly that. It was a class on how to be civil, and how our society works.

At this point, I’m not pointing the finger at anyone for causing our societal behavior, but I want to discuss the many aspects of how the Coronavirus has affected my life, my opinion of where things have drastically changed, and what to do about a civil recovery.

Being locked up for over a year was brutal for me. Being a social animal, a restaurant regular, and a swimmer, I had to find other forms of enjoyment as did mostly everybody in the world.

The thing is that now people have changed how they think and behave in terms of work, unemployment, eviction, feeling entitled because they have “suffered enough,” angry about mask mandates and other prejudices related to their freedom. I’ve read about many situations where restaurant workers are being abused due to the long waits for food because restaurants are short handed. I mean, I’m retired, but I wouldn’t want to be busting my ass waiting on unmasked people with an attitude.

Others are angry that people marching for Black Lives Matter aren’t getting charged with the same aggression as the insurrectionists. Oh, please. You might not like the topic, but what gives one group permission to march and not others? In both of these marching groups there were drop-in marchers that were not a true marcher at all. Why are we so quick to disparage what we think is the other side? Here is what I’ve endured because of the pandemic in addition to the lockdown, lack of the fresh groceries that I’m used to, and just plain living.

In March, my Ford Focus that I bought brand new had a recall problem with the transmission sensor. This sensor had been replaced twice already, and once while driving in the fast lane on the freeway, the car simply stopped like it was in neutral. I could have been killed! So, for the third time, I took it back to the Ford dealership for repair. I was shocked to find out that the manufacturer had been closed due to Covid and the part was back ordered with a waiting list of 6,000! The guy said that he had no idea if it would ever be available and if I had a problem, I should just buy a different car. I swear I wasn’t angry or demanding, I simply said whaaaat? Apparently, he had heard that question enough and he was down right mean!

I’m sorry that he worked for the Ford dealership that wasn’t able to help its recall customers, but why so surly? It’s his job. You don’t get to be an ass because you’re tired of Covid treating you badly on the job. Deal with it! Next, my dryer went out. I knew that it might so I had been pricing them for a few months. Apparently, parts and shipping are a problem. Now I find that they are almost 50% more expensive than they were a few months ago. Fewer dryers, fewer computer parts being manufactured, shipping all backed up. So, we are hanging clothes to dry until something changes.

Last week when my husband finished up at his doctors visit, he went to the checkout window that had tape on the floor to stand 6 feet back. Ok. That’s predictable. Then he spotted the primitive poster that said “Wait your turn, DON’T knock on this window, don’t even think about it!” The doctor’s office? Not a question about how he’s feeling, or have a nice day?

So, now the moratorium on eviction is ending. Some people are desperate that they are about to become homeless, and some are taking advantage. Nobody really knows who is really in need and who’s faking, and some are pointing fingers while some landlords have been driven to bankruptcy. Not all landlords are rich hogs, and not all black people have stopped paying rent because they’re lazy. Where is all of this cross talk coming from?

I remember my Mother saying “Why can’t we all just get along?” My question is will our society ever be civil again? Will we help people who are losing their homes if they need it? Will we call out the people who are taking advantage of unemployment because they’re taking advantage of all of us? Will people who are not getting a vaccine be convinced to get it if it will be for the better good of everyone, or will we all just continue to be prejudiced against everything that’s not ourselves? Please people, be more civil. If you’re in a job that you hate, move on. If you hate, spend more time enjoying the things that you love. The sooner we get back to normal, the sooner I’ll be able to buy a new dryer

Cholesterol For The Complete Idiot

Maybe you remember the book that was for Volkswagen repair for the complete idiot. It was called A Manual Of Step By Step Procedures For The Complete Idiot. I think that when most people are told by their doctor after an annual lab test that they have high cholesterol, they feel like a complete idiot. Most people think that they can’t have another hamburger for the rest of their life. Others think that they will do anything not to become a bunny hugger, and others hang on to their cigarettes for dear life.

Here is my disclaimer; Let me start by saying that I’m not a doctor or a dietician, nor do I play one on TV. I have been a Personal Trainer since 1976 and have successfully trained every age, shape, and health level of client. Through research, and ultimately my own and my husband’s diagnosis of high cholesterol, I began to focus on the details. I then realized just how much I didn’t know. I am a Certified Sports Nutritionist with a passion for cooking and the details and components of my meals for ultimate health. And one more thing … I’m pushing 70 years old.

What is the story about Cheerios, or Statin drugs, or cholesterol in general? Unless you go online and do specific research, you will usually only have a short discussion and been given a handout about the cholesterol diet and a prescription for a medication. Personally, I am on a cholesterol medication, but have stayed on the lowest dose possible as I studied up on the rest of the story. In fact, my cholesterol is perfectly in check at this time.

So, lets start with smoking. Smoking makes LDL (bad cholesterol, or L for lousy) stickier making it cling to artery walls which clogs them. It also lowers the HDL (H for healthy) which is what you need to move the cholesterol from artery walls.

According to WebMD, smoking increases clotting, damages your lungs, weakens your bones, increases inflammation and weakens your immune system. Just 20 minutes after you stop smoking, your blood pressure and heart rate go down and in 2-3 weeks your blood flow starts to get better. If your cholesterol is high, a healthier cardiovascular system can definitely extend your life.

So what’s the deal with Cheerios? Well, the FDA has warned that Cheerios claims that eating them can decrease cholesterol in 4 – 6 weeks, and that eating them can prevent or treat heart disease. Eating oats can aid in preventing LDL from sticking, but there are other types of cholesterol involved in your heart health.

The truth about the soluble fiber found in Cheerios is that it forms a gel like consistency in the digestive tract. Consuming 10 – 25 or more grams of soluble fiber each day can lower LDL, but HDL and Triglycerides are only minimally affected by eating soluble fiber. When this gel like consistency is in your digestive tract, you are likely to eliminate some LDL before it gets into your blood stream. Some people add products like Benefiber or Metamucil to their daily routine for a healthy digestive system.

Foods containing soluble fiber are: Oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, and psyllium. So to answer the question about Cheerios, yes eating Cheerios or Oatmeal for breakfast every day is a good start, but really a small part of the story.

Without getting technical, remember this article is for the complete idiot, so I am not qualified to talk about the intimate details, but according to Harvard.edu, only about 20% of cholesterol is derived from your diet. The other 80% is created by the liver so when you are put on cholesterol medication, the design is to limit the amount of cholesterol that your body makes. One thing to know is that cholesterol is needed for digestion, Vitamin D production, and the production of certain hormones, so it’s not necessarily a bad word altogether. If you have a 100% heart healthy diet, you could still have sky – high lab reports because that’s what your ancestors had.

So far by reading this article, if you have cut back on smoking and started eating more soluble fiber, you’re off to a good start because LDL or low-density lipoproteins is  the “bad” cholesterol and these two changes will aid in lowering this number.

The next lipid or fat found in your blood are Triglycerides. According to the Mayo Clinic, excess calories consumed are converted to Triglycerides and stored in your fat cells only to be released for energy when needed. If you eat more fats than you burn, especially carbohydrates, (BOOM!) more body fat, higher Triglycerides. This is where ANY amount of exercise is very valuable as it not only burns the burden of excess fat, but Triglycerides lurking in your system.

Another component to understand here is Omega 3 Fatty Acids. TV commercials talk about this and guarantee good health, heart health, lower cholesterol, and more. First, let me say that there are millions of products available, some of them just called fish oil, others promise to be the end – all of cholesterol. This is not the whole story. Omega 3 Fatty Acids are a friendly type of fat that the body doesn’t produce on its own, but is necessary in reducing clots and keeping platelets from sticking. They help to keep arteries smooth, lower Triglycerides, slow inflamation, MAY raise HDL (the good stuff) and may lower blood pressure.

The first two Omegas are found in certain types of fatty fish like Mackerel, Wild Salmon, Herring, Tuna, Trout, Anchovy, White Fish, Bluefish, Halibut, Bass, and Krill Oil. It is recommended that you eat one type of this fish at least twice a week. Mercury levels are a concern because of natural and industrial pollution in our waters. Pregnant women should consult with their doctor as to how to get enough Omega 3’s. The third Omega is found in seeds and nuts like milled flax seed, flax seed oil, chia seeds, walnuts, soy foods, canola oil, and algae or algae oil.

You will read about Omega 6 Fatty Acids as another supplement to lower cholesterol numbers, but because it is sometimes ruled as a cause for raising Triglycerides, I’m calling that out of my wheel house of advice. There are also articles claiming that there is not enough research on it’s benefits or risks, so I recommend going to the Harvard.edu website for clearer and more educated research.

Saturated Fats can be called the bad guys here. They are generally solid at room temperature, and you know who they are. Cheese, sour cream, ghee, butter, chocolate, ice cream, and more treats than I can name here. You should consume no more than 20 g women 30 g men per day. They can raise LDL (bad) and it requires HDL (good) to carry it to the liver for disposal. These fats are the ones to go easy on, but they tend to be the ones that are the most fun to eat large amounts of. I love sitting down to a half gallon of ice cream, I mean, who doesn’t? Pizza comes in greasy cheese stuffed crust these days. No matter what your health goals are, saturated fats are not your friend.

Unsaturated Fats are considered friendlier than saturated fats and I have been able to come up with some awesome substitutes.

There are two types of unsaturated fats;

Monosaturated – Maintain HDL and help reduce LDL. Found in fish, olive oil, avocados, brazil nuts, and peanuts.

Polyunsaturated – Found in Omega 3’s, and Omega 6 – Canola, corn, sunflower, peanut butter, avocado oil, eggs. A few of the Omega 6 ingredients are commonly GMO’s, and are surrounded by conflict. I’m not confident enough to endorse one way or another, but if the product is not labeled GMO free, it’s not necessarily your best choice.

Trans Fats – These are the last fat on my list here. Don’t do it! You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know when you bite into these foods that you’re dying a little bit at that moment you start chewing. The primary source for trans fats is partially hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenated oils were called not safe for human consumption by the FDA in 2013. They are found in cakes, donuts, pie crust, bisquits, frozen pizza, cookies, crackers, margarines, french fries, and many other foods found in restaurants and the freezer aisle.

Now you know the names of the fats found in your blood and how to change your numbers. Look at your recent lab tests and ask your doctor what they recommend. Here is my advice in a nutshell.

Read labels! Do your best to eat things that you like but go easy on the bad stuff. Limit your salt. According to the Cleveland Clinic sodium can cause fluid to build up around your heart and lungs raising blood pressure and makes your heart work harder. You should consume less than 2,000 mg per day of sodium.

Watch your calories. Try to stay below 2,000 calories per day with 20-30% being fats. Look for hidden sugar sometimes called high fructose corn syrup which is high in carbs and raises Triglycerides and LDL.

Exercise, even if only for 10 minutes. Any amount of exercise will improve your heart health. This will lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower your blood sugar, take off excess weight, and encourage arteries to dilate more readily. I can’t stress this enough. ANY exercise, even walking around the house rather than sitting is a good thing. Better yet, start a personal program. Walk two laps around the local mall or the local high school track, buy a treadmill, throw a ball for your dog, or anything but the couch.

Want to read more? Check out the American Heart Association website heart.org. They include lots of heart health information, recipes, events, and more.

Things are dire in the Western United States right now. Some farmers can’t plant, others are selling off livestock. I’m frustrated to look out the window and see my neighbors letting their child squirt the hose directly on to the desert rocks in 117 degree heat. For what? Maybe they could put some water in the tub and allow her to play in it rather than letting it go into the dry desert rocks.

Lake Mead in Nevada which is our water source is at its lowest level ever and it is the largest reservoir in the United States. Lake Mead supplies Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, and Las Vegas, all who are enduring record heat waves.

I am not asking people who don’t believe in climate change to believe, I am only pointing out the fact that if we don’t at least try to conserve we could end up like other places in the world who have lost all sources of water and can’t shower, let alone have water to cook with.

Please, people. Until conditions change (if they do), please conserve. Don’t let the water run while you brush your teeth, take shorter showers, wash your car less often, water your lawn at night, and all I ask is that you contribute.

QiGong And Blood Pressure. Believe What You Read.

Now retired, I was involved in fitness, sports, and athletic club management for an entire 40 year career. I was never the “no pain, no gain” type of body Nazi, but I believed that if you weren’t maxing out, you weren’t gaining in your fitness level. I thought that I could eat anything and everything that I wanted. It seemed true because even if I ate 6,000 calories, there was no doubt that I’d stay trim and burn it off. How could over eating be harmful if I stayed thin and felt good? Well, read on because that’s the moral of my story here.

During my years as a fitness expert, I learned how to practice yoga and meditation, but I was far too jacked up to practice such laid back methods. I would find my knee bouncing and the clock moving too slow.

Once I retired, I found the benefits of slower, more meditative techniques for fitness because frankly, my body was too stiff and sore to go all out any more. In addition to this, my husband was still working and I worried about him and how we would pay all of the bills on one paycheck. I WORRIED in capital letters!

During these first few years of retirement my annual medical exams were showing raised cholesterol readings, high blood pressure, and weight gain which falls into the unhealthy category that I had escaped for so many years. Of course, the medical readings were causing me to pile up on medications. I was taking what I would call high doses of two different blood pressure medications and still showing high readings.

Two years ago when my husband was preparing to retire, in my panic of how we would survive, I started looking for a place to retire with an affordable future. I found a condo in the desert that would accommodate our income and a quiet future. In my usual highly energized fashion, I packed up, sold our house and anything that would support the future.

Up until our retirement move, I had been reading about and trying to practice QiGong. It was so quiet and relaxing, but in my high energy caffeinated style, I couldn’t practice very well, but once we settled in with a regular routine, miracles began to happen.

Living in a smaller place with no reason to rush out the door in the morning, I started playing very relaxing music in my space all day. I started practicing QiGong, specifically a practice called the Eight Brocades. It was so named because the moves were written down on silk and handed down. There were only eight moves. I could learn by practicing one of each of the moves a day, or several of each move. It really depends on how strong I was feeling.

In addition to practicing QiGong, we started sitting in the sun for a half an hour each morning while enjoying our breakfast, tea, or coffee. What a lovely turn our lives had taken. I was getting tanned, energized, and motivated to further my daily practice that was so relaxing, spiritual, and strengthening.

At this time, I noticed that in the evenings I felt really strange, almost faint. When I saw the doctor, she recommended that I split my blood pressure medicine and take half in the morning and half at night. There was no change. At that time, she suggested that I cut one of the medications in half and that should help, but it did not. Since the doctor hadn’t recommended to cut it any more, I assumed that she was right. After all, when the doctor tells you to take something, you do it. The doctor had prescribed the meds, so it might be too dangerous to take less.

Another thought that was bothering me was that the people that I saw on YouTube that practiced QiGong appeared spiritual, in fact, way more spiritual than me. I uttered the F word often, I wasn’t necessarily spiritual or reverent in any way, so how could QiGong be responsible for my healing?

By now, I was only taking one of the BP medications, but my blood pressure was getting lower and lower, and I still felt like I must be dying because my morning QiGong routine was hardly strenuous. If years of hard core aerobics hadn’t prevented me from getting high cholesterol and high blood pressure in my later years, how could this easy peasy relaxing practice be lowering my BP by so much? I researched low blood pressure, and most QiGong websites and reputable medical sites claimed that one of the benefits of QiGong is that it can lower blood pressure. I felt like I wasn’t reverent enough, or that this practice would only work on those old Chinese Centenarians that were experienced practitioners and teachers, but not me.

I contacted another doctor. She is from Colorado. When I explained my worries about my blood pressure getting lower and lower, she inquired about my lifestyle and any changes that I had recently made. I had made a few changes over the past couple of years. I no longer had a teenager in the house, I no longer managed two businesses, I had a lot of time to enjoy nature, and I had become a regular practitioner of QiGong and meditation. My recent labs had shown nothing notable about my health to be alarming which was not surprising to her. My cholesterol was even normal!

After answering all of her questions, she cut my blood pressure in half which left me with ¼ of what I had started with several years before. Her main comment was “believe it!” She believed that my slow lifestyle changes along with removing myself from a stressful lifestyle meant that I no longer needed the industrial doses of medication that previous doctors had kept loading to the dose. My goal is to stop all blood pressure medications completely, and at this stage of my life that would be such a blessing.

I can’t stress enough how much that I’ve learned from this experience. My insecurity about not belonging in the spiritual culture of this type of meditative practice could have led me to my golden years dosed up on medications that I did not need. My advice to the reader is believe it! You can be an average Joe that mutters the F word now and then, and still practice this stillness and meditative state to your benefit. I will admit that I’m still a bit of a skeptic that listening to healing music and practicing a slow moving exercise has brought me to this place, but my medical records show that there is no metabolic reason that my blood pressure has dropped so significantly besides my new lifestyle.

Talk to your doctor about lowering your blood pressure naturally and do what he or she says. Contact a QiGong teacher (if you’re older, some yoga moves can be hard on your joints, so I recommend QiGong). Look on YouTube for some QiGong videos. Go online to some reputable medical and university websites and they will say the same thing. I wonder why I was so slow to believe that people do lower and even eliminate medications!

If I had not thought that I had a serious malady causing my heart to slow drastically, I never would have contacted a doctor. I thank God for that doctor. I’m so relieved that I’m retired and well.