Welcome to February! February is the month we deck ourselves out in red, celebrate Valentine's Day and February is earmarked as "Women's Heart Health Month". Rash generalizations, all women love chocolate, dark chocolate is good for your heart, give women valentines and chocolate and we will all be healthy and happy! Well, not so fast. While the statements above may have some truth to them, the reality is that EVERY DAY of EVERY MONTH should be Heart Health Awareness for men, women AND children!
Hearts are pretty important. Did you ever love someone so much that they were your whole world, only to lose that person so quickly and with such finality that your world changed forever? That is the feeling that I experienced for the first time when my grandfather died when I was in 6th grade. My grandfather, Sammy Fields, aka Nuccio, was that person for me. He was my teacher, he taught me to count (with playing cards from the Stardust Hotel in Vegas). He was my confidante without judgement. He was my protector (He broke me out of Winkie Bear Pre-School and took me on adventures with him). He taught me to cook, how to roll a mean meatball and how to hang homemade linguini so that it dried just right. Sadly for me and for my sister, our grandfather was snatched away too soon to teach us more, to experience our accomplishments or to be there to protect us when we needed it.
It is ironic that we were always our grandfather's Valentine and it was heart disease --preventable heart disease -- that stole away at least 25 years that our grandfather could have shared our lives.
I don't think that it is coincidence that both Jade and I became Doctors of Chiropractic and mutually dedicated ourselves to increasing the awareness of health and wellness of others. When you are very young and lose someone close you experience all of the levels of grief, including anger. With the loss of my grandfather I don't think I ever reached the "acceptance" stage. Instead, as the years progressed, I developed a better understanding of the things that my grandfather, who was once an athlete, did and did not do that contributed to his death from heart disease at age 68. Knowing that the quality and length of his life could have been majorly impacted by eating right, regular exercise, supplementing and controlling stress continues to frustrate me. Quite honestly I am still angry with him for not taking better care of himself so that he could be here to argue with me over taking Co-Q 10 or eating Kale.
If you have someone in your life who needs to be reminded that you love them and they need to take better care of themselves, maybe this Valentine's Day is the time to write them a letter and remind them. Here is my letter to my grandfather:
"Dear Pop-Pop; Happy Valentine's Day. I wish you were here to share it with us. I admit, I am angry at you for smoking, not exercising enough, eating too many bad carbs and eating pork chop sandwiches instead of green salads. I'm angry, but I forgive you. I wish you would have taken better care of yourself so you could be here today. If you would only have done some simple but important things to protect your heart, you might be receiving this Valentine in person. If we had been older and understood that heart disease was going to snatch you away, this is what we would told you to PLEASE DO:
1.) Do 30 minutes of cardio 3 - 6 days a week. For someone who was a former boxer and could jump rope like Muhammed Ali, you didn't work out. We think more cardio might have snagged us at least five more years together.
2.) Maintain a lower body weight; You might not have gotten Adult Onset Diabetes (TYPE 2) if you had worked out just a little harder to lose some weight and maintain a consistent body weight. Losing only 5 – 10% of your body weight would have lowered your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and lowered your risk for diabetes. Keeping diabetes at bay may have given us three or four more Valentine's Days.
3.) Eat at least 25 grams of fiber a day; Well Pop-Pop, you loved your carbs, but all of that spaghetti and lasagna wasn’t nearly as good for you as the fiber found in oats, beans and citrus fruits, or even switching up the regular spaghetti for whole-wheat pasta. The average American eats only about 14 grams of fiber.
I can’t help wondering if one bowl of oatmeal and an apple a day wouldn’t
have given us two or three more years together?
4.) Cut Back on Bad Fats: We remember the pork chop sandwiches, fried chicken wings and the prime rib dinners that abounded on Sundays. Those delicious but dangerous meals elevated your LDL (bad cholesterol). Switching from Italian Sausage and proccuito to lean chicken, fish and beans would have kept your blood flowing.
5.) Supplement Your Diet; Ironically I have a vivid memory of you taking Vitamin E. I think when I was in grade school people thought Vitamin E was some sort of wonder drug. In a way they were right because this vitamin, along with A and C help promote healthy circulation, prevent fatty deposits and boost healthy cells; if you can't eat liver, kiwis, strawberries, peppers, almonds and tuna, then Vitamin A, C and E would have been a good way to supplement. I know you took vitamin E, but that alone and once in a while isn't a substitute for healthy eating and supplementing consistently.
Well Pop-Pop there is so much more that we could say. If you were our patient we would encourage you to eat greens every day, switch out that cheeseburger for some wild salmon and supplement or eat a diet rich in B vitamins. It would have been our dream to keep you healthy, provide adjustments and move forward in a vital life together. Sadly for us that wasn't to be. We miss you."
The point of this post is to remind readers that we shouldn't focus on good health just on Hallmark days or specially designated months. And yes, it's ok to celebrate Valentine's day with a little chocolate or a glass of wine, but remember that moderation is the stuff that great health is made of.
More importantly, do take care of yourself for you, but do it for the people around you who love you. If your 3rd grader begs you to stop smoking, exercise or lose weight because they are learning about the dangers of an unhealthy lifestyle in science, don't humor them. Listen to them so that in ten or 15 years they aren't writing a Valentine to you that it is too late for you to read.
If you have someone in your world and you are worried about their health, maybe this is the time to send them a Valentine that might save their life.
**If there is any way that we can help you to lead a a more fit and healthy lifestyle please call us at North Shore Pro-Active Health 60048. 847-362-4476.
***Dr. Jordan and Dr. Jade are available to discuss health topics for "Lunch and Learn" programs for local companies, pre-natal classes, and educational programs for local schools and athletic programs.