Musings on the Last Day of the Year

Buried driveway and road
One of my all-time favorite holiday CDs is Groovelily's "Striking Twelve" - I've seen it twice in a real live theater and it never ceases to amaze and thrill me.  If you haven't heard of it, it is a modern day rock musical dramatization of "The Little Match Girl" - which was a really depressing fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson.  Now, you might ask, how can a really depressing fairy tale inspire end of the year musings?  I suggest you download and buy the CD, but barring that - I can tell you that this show/CD/musical points us to what is truly important in life in a comical way.   The people around us and the love we share is ALL that really matters in the end. 

This is where my thoughts are going in these last hours of the last day of the year.  As many of you know, 2017 was a very tough year for me.  I had a wake-up call for my health in the form of an unexpected heart attack.  Medical researchers are just beginning to scratch the surface of the complexity and intelligence possessed by the human heart.  When we connect with others in a real and meaningful way - we spark electromagnetic currents that are real and measurable. 

This means that we are on the verge of scientific proof that being with those we love strengthens us and heals us.  Likewise, being with those who wish to harm us can do just the opposite. 

This year, make it a point to reach out to those who live in isolation or who could use a kind word or touch.  Your visit to a shut-in or a convalescent home can be healing to someone who really needs it.  If you have family or friends that you dearly love but have let a silly fight or grudge separate you - make this the year that you reach out and heal the rift. 

You may actually save a life by doing so.   Peace out - and Happy 2018!!! 


Ten Ways to Get Back to Health After the Holiday Frenzy

If you are like me, you probably lost track of healthy eating habits somewhere between mid November and December 25th.  Like they say, if you fall off a horse the very best thing is to get back on and ride, and that is exactly what I plan to do. 

Here are the ten ideas I have brainstormed to get me back on track.  I'll let you all know how I do!

1)  Set up new habits so they become automatic.  Exercise is tough to fit in and getting enough water almost impossible in the holiday rush.  Getting back on track means making it a no-brainer so that I don't fall off the wagon next year.  I have set a rule so that every time I walk through the kitchen, I have to take a sip of water.  Everytime I visit the bathroom, I have to do ten squats.  These rules are not going to turn me into Serena Williams, but they represent baby steps to help me along my path to health.  Squeezing half a lemon in a big glass of water and keeping it in the kitchen as a daily item helps too.

2) I saw on TV where the star of SWAT (the cute one whose name I don't remember with the washboard abs) does 500 stomach crunches per day.  I am starting with 25 and working my way up.

3) Tracking food intake on Sparkpeople may be time consuming and a pain, but it REALLY shows you what you are putting into your body. I started this again this morning, and was surprised to find that by lunch time I was close to my daily intake of fats already

4) Hide the remaining cookies and candy - better yet, take them to someone who has no issues with sugar, fat or health.

5) Go outside and walk a little bit every day. The fresh air is invigorating, and walking is great exercise.  We walked our doggies yesterday around our local lake

6) Probiotics help with the holiday indigestion.  Drinking Kombucha is a wonderful way to fill your body with beneficial bacteria and help destroy the bad bugs that have been fed with all that candy.

7) Drinking tea helps flush out toxins and is deeply satisfying on a cold day.

8) The game Just Dance for the PS4 is a lot of fun, great exercise, and just requires that you have a Sony PS4 and your phone.  I do this game when there is no one around to laugh at my trying to learn the latest moves. 

9) I bought a pajama warmer so that I can be warm and toasty when I go to bed, and then set the Nest to turn down the temp to 65 in the night which is said to be the best temperature for sleeping.  Sleep is key to replenishing those pre holiday energy stores.

10) Last but not least, I am taking the time to play with my five animals more.  Playing with pets reduces the stress hormone cortisol; a constant during the holiday hustle and bustle.   Heidi (below) LOVES her belly scratched!  Scratching her belly helps both of us in the long run.  IMG_0918


Happy New Year Everyone!









Heat and Heart Disease - Not a Good Combination!

This week, we have had a record-breaking heat wave throughout California.  If you live in Arizona or Nevada, you are probably used to this but we most certainly are not! I have personally found that when I go out in the heat, I experience chest pain.  Heat should dilate blood vessels so one would think that heat would make things better. Not so. 

Part of the problem is that the typical medications given to heart patients such as beta blockers and ace inhibitors can intensify the body's reaction to heat.  This means you are MORE likely to suffer from heat exhaustion or sun stroke than someone who is not on these meds. 

Also, your body gets rid of heat in two ways - by sweating and rerouting blood so that more of it goes to the skin.  Both processes put more strain on your heart.  Sweating also causes the loss of key minerals such as sodium and potassium that are crucial for muscle contractions, nerve transmissions and water balance in the body.   Adding insult to injury are the stress hormones produced in the body on a hot day.

If you have heart disease, make sure you stay indoors in air conditioning if at all possible.  If you must be out and about - drink lots of water (and those of us over 50 don't always experience thirst when we are dehydrated, this problem worsens if you have diabetes).  Get minerals from either supplements or electrolyte rich drinks such as Gatorade (or healthier versions such as Isagenix Hydrate).  Wear light clothing too, I am always amazed when I see people wearing black t-shirts on a hot day.  Eating light meals also reduces the amount of work the body (and heart) has to do. 

Another great trick is to keep some body sprays in the refrigerator, and spray them when you are warm.  They are alcohol based and cool you down quickly. 

Stay cool, and stay safe!



Stress Management, Music, and Audio Medicine

One of the biggest contributors to ALL DIS-EASE is chronic stress and our ability to manage it.  Today we live in a world of immediacy - our cell phones are always on and we are continually surrounded by multiple interactive screens that clamor for our attention 24/7.   If we don't detach and let go of these stressors, we start to have warning signs that our bodies are not tolerating the flood of stress based chemicals (like cortisol and worse).  These symptoms can include depression, insomnia, irritability, stomach distress, migraines, eye twitching, joint pain, and fatigue.  Over time, this can manifest into more serious issues such as type diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and autoimmune diseases. 

What to do?  First of all, I have had to force myself to detach from the stressful inputs coming from my cell phone, computer, TV, Amazon Echos, iPads, etc.   One way I found to do this is to turn off the notifications during rest periods, and use these devices to provide the relaxation I need.   A device is not in and of itself inherently bad - and technology is a double-edged sword.  How do I do this?   During dinner, my husband and I take turns requesting our Amazon Echo to play music we love.   I request jazz, he usually goes for blues and classic rock but we learn from each other about different artists and types of music.  This provides a nice pause from a work-from-home never ending business day.  Secondly,I have discovered the use of headphones and two types of audio engineered tracks that reduce stress by managing brainwaves; isochiral music and binaural music.   Isochiral music works by stimulating parts of the brain that govern a specific area of interest.  Users such as myself have reported surprisingly positive results, and many apps can be found in the Apple store from a bunch of different vendors.  Binaural music is similar, but works through headphones by having one frequency sent to one ear and a different one to another ear - as your brain splits the difference.  I have also had great results with these tracks as well - as long as I take the time to actually put my headphones on during my stressful day to take advantage of these wonderful resources! Remember, things don't work unless you use them.  I have also found that results only come with consistency.  Doing it once and expecting it to work miracles just doesn't happen. 

As a musician, I may be a bit biased but I also feel that we are just beginning to uncover the many health benefits of listening to live music.  I attended the Blues and Bones festival in Angels Camp, CA this weekend, and I literally felt the stress falling off my shoulders while listening!  Music has a purifying, refining effect on our central nervous systems, and it lifts us above our daily concerns to an entirely new state of consciousness.  In this sense, musicians are our new "medical doctors" as they spin healing frequencies and rhythms all around us while practicing their craft. 

Mental health professionals and scientists are learning more every day about how music affects us in a positive way.  From the American Psychological Association:

"While music has long been recognized as an effective form of therapy to provide an outlet for emotions, the notion of using song, sound frequencies and rhythm to treat physical ailments is a relatively new domain, says psychologist Daniel J. Levitin, PhD, who studies the neuroscience of music at McGill University in Montreal. A wealth of new studies is touting the benefits of music on mental and physical health. For example, in a meta-analysis of 400 studies, Levitin and his postgraduate research fellow, Mona Lisa Chanda, PhD, found that music improves the body's immune system function and reduces stress. Listening to music was also found to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety before surgery (Trends in Cognitive Sciences, April, 2013).

"We've found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health-care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics," says Levitin, author of the book "This is Your Brain on Music" (Plume/Penguin, 2007). The analysis also points to just how music influences health. The researchers found that listening to and playing music increase the body's production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells — the cells that attack invading viruses and boost the immune system's effectiveness. Music also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

"This is one reason why music is associated with relaxation," Levitin says."

I look forward to the day when doctor's prescribe one hour of John Coltrane, followed by a smattering of the Beatles and Zepplin instead of opiods for pain! 


Magnesium - Making Sure All that Calcium Goes to the Right Place

Another supplement recommended by my Sutter Health cardiologist was Magnesium.  I remembered being giving Milk of Magnesia as a kid for constipation, and already knew that Epsom salts baths were relaxing, but I really didn't know how it would help with heart health.  So - I decided to do some digging.

Magnesium is most often recommended for bone health, but is also key for 300 different metabolic processes across the body. Of prime importance to heart disease patients is that it is necessary for the assimulation of calcium into bone material.  If too much calcium is present in the blood stream, it can contribute to coronary artery disease as it can be deposited onto the artery walls.  A proper magnesium/calcium balance is also needed for a strong, regular heart beat.   In fact, taking calcium supplements without magnesium supplements has been shown to increase heart attack risk.

Bad news for most Americans - the average American diet only provides 40% of the needed magnesium (according to the Nutritional Magnesium Association).  This is most likely due to the lack of fruits and vegetables in this diet, as well as to modern farming methods which deplete our soils of minerals.   Also according to the Nutritional Magnesium Association, up to 80% of the US population has magnesium deficiency. 

What are some of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency?  Early symptoms include headache, nausea, fatigue and weakness.  As this deficiency progresses, there are up to 22 different conditions that can occur.  These include coronary spasms,  anxiety or panic attacks, blood clots, depression(as magnesium is a precursor to serotonin production), fibromyalgia, tooth decay, weak bones, diabetes and heart attacks.   It is also really hard to test for magnesium levels, so this is not usually identified by the standard yearly physical. 

The good news is that it is easy to supplement with magnesium.   One natural doctor I visited advised me to bathe in Epsom salts as magnesium can be absorbed through my skin.  Magnesium can also be found in good quality dark chocolate (no Hershey's doesn't count, it needs to be at least 70% cocoa), avocados, nuts like cashews and almonds, beans and seeds, tofu, and whole grains. 

The safest way to make sure you are getting enough magnesium is to supplement.  Be careful - too much supplementation may lead to diarrhea which is no fun!  

Here is a great supplement that I recommend that is chelated for good absorption and is a low enough dose that it doesn't cause any gastric distress.  I was taking these, but found that my Isagenix Isaflush (part of the 30 day weight loss program) also contains magnesium so didn't want to double dose.    


What's All the Buzz About Inflammation?

Go to any health website these days and one of the first things you will see is either a reference to, or an article about inflammation.  Modern research shows that inflammation is being blamed for anything from Alzheimer's to obesity to heart disease.  How can one condition cause so much destruction to the human body? Why is it rampant, and what can we do about it?

Inflammation refers to swelling and irritation of our bodily tissues in response to an outside irritant.  We get inflammation when our bodies are highly acidic - and much of the highly processed foods we eat in America ARE highly acidic.  Eating sugar or worse, high fructose corn syrup creates an acid condition in the body as does eating refined carbohydrates such as white breads or pastas. 

Inflammation is not necessarily a bad thing when it is acute - it is actually our body's natural response to an infection or irritant.  According to Medical News Today,

  • Inflammation is the body's attempt at self-protection to remove harmful stimuli and begin the healing process.
  • Inflammation is part of the body's immune response.
  • The first stage of inflammation is often called irritation, which then becomes inflammation - the immediate healing process.
  • Inflammation is followed by suppuration (discharging of pus). Then there is the granulation stage, the formation in wounds of tiny, rounded masses of tissue during healing.
  • Acute inflammation - starts rapidly (rapid onset) and quickly becomes severe.
  • Chronic inflammation - this means long-term inflammation, which can last for several months and even years.
  • Our infections, wounds and any damage to tissue would never heal without inflammation - tissue would become more and more damaged and the body, or any organism, would eventually perish.
  • Chronic inflammation can eventually cause several diseases and conditions, including some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, periodontitis, and hay fever.
  • Although scientists know that inflammation plays a key role in heart disease and several other illnesses, what drives inflammation in the first place is still a mystery.
  • It should be remembered that inflammation is part of the healing process. Sometimes reducing inflammation is necessary, but not always.

So - how do we keep our bodies out of the chronic inflammation stage, or heal them if we are already there and experiencing health problems?

First of all, we stop putting garbage into our bodies that causes this state (yes, the allopathic medical profession says what causes inflammation is a mystery per the above, but there is plenty of evidence that food additives, high fructose corn syrup, and acidic conditions create inflammation).   Read food labels, and get rid of anything in your pantry that has high fructose corn syrup, a list of ingredients that goes on for miles and reads like greek, and is highly processed (convenient but deadly).  Better living through chemistry is no longer a good idea in this day and age.  Secondly, limit eating out to a couple of times a month, OR go to a restaurant where you know food ingredients and nutrition information will be listed.  Make sure you keep the sugar and fat down.  Third, take steps to alkalize your body.  How do you do that?  Eat more green veggies - even if you hate them now, over a short period of time your taste buds adjust and you start loving them.  Go to a farmer's market and buy fresh ones, they taste a lot better than what you get in the grocery store and have more nutrients.  Try to buy the darker green varieties - Iceberg or lighter lettuce is just like eating paper; it has almost no vitamins and minerals.  The darker varieties have more "phytonutrients" - plant chemicals that help prevent everything from cancer to insulin resistance. 

Even if you do these things, there are still more steps you can take to obtain optimum health.  Inflammation can be caused by an allergy that you don't know you have.  Doctors and insurance companies don't always authorize allergy tests, or they just authorize the cheaper "back scrape" method that is less than accurate.   You can find several online companies that will allow you to purchase a kit to test at home that is simple and convenient.  You can then take the results to your doctor and get the bigger test authorized.  And many of these tests take HSA cards too, so you can pay with pretax dollars. 

You can also take supplements that help with inflammation, or better yet, use meal replacement shakes that have patented, engineered ingredients that fight inflammation.  I am presently using Tumeric supplements which really seem to have made a difference

These supplements have Black pepper also, which has been shown to improve the efficiency of Tumeric as an inflammation fighter. 

I am also enjoying two meal replacement shakes daily from Isagenix that contain a proprietary blend of branched chain amino acids, trace minerals (as our soil is depleted of them), healthy fats and 24 grams of protein. 

I also recommend staying out of intense heat - this weekend's heat really turned up my chest pains as the area of the blood clot in my heart was inflamed.   Heat is generated by inflammation, so having environmental excess heat is a no brainer for worsening bodily inflammation.  Bad luck for those who live in Arizona! 

Stay tuned for more as I discover more healthy tips and information - hope this helps my readers. 

Mobile Technology, Afib, and Irregular Heart Beats

Roughly two months after my big cardiac event, I started noticing irregular heart beats, but only at night.  I mentioned this to my Cardiologist - Dr Henjum in Placerville, and he recommended I purchase an iPhone gadget that does a complete EKG in 30 seconds.  What a great use for a smartphone!

There are actually several choices out there, my research showed that the AliveCor Kardia Mobile was the most desirable for me as I didn't want to wear wires 24/7 (would be pretty embarrassing when out with friends or visiting customers), but I wanted to be able to take an EKG at the moment when I felt something was wrong without having to wait until the next morning to see the doctor.  

You also can purchase this handy little device on Amazon here : 

AliveCor Kardia Mobile ECG for Apple and Android devices

It is $99, and comes with basic service, which allows you to email your last EKG to your cardiologist.   If you opt for more, they have a premium service that provides a monthly summary to your cardiologist along with unlimited EKG storage.  This would help detect trends over time and help your doctor gauge your progress. 

I bought one, and am waiting for it to arrive.  Even for people who haven't had cardiac events, I think this is a wise investment as it could help detect a stroke or heart attack right away.  Many people just think it will go away and die unnecessarily as they didn't get needed treatment in time; this would remove the guess factor.  ER treatment could also start early if the patient comes in with an EKG on his or her phone, showing the immediate need for care. 





Roughly Six Weeks Out of Cardiac ICU - A Perspective on Life

Today, I looked in the mirror and was really happy to be alive!!!  I took all my meds that they tell me I will be on for the rest of my life, and I took inventory of all the bruises I have as a result of being on Effiant - a very strong blood thinner they needed to help dissolve the clot as they couldn't do a stent in my artery at the time.  Am hoping noone thinks my husband beat me LOL!!

One thing I have realized as an escapee from the ICU is that our life here on earth is an incredible gift.  If we get too caught up in the day-to-day and forget to live in the moment, we miss millions of synchronistic messages that our creator has sent to us - as well as the beautiful spring lilacs, the love our dogs have for us, the affectionate kiss from our spouse, and the precious moments spent with our aging parents.   When it all comes to an end, if we don't slow down and pay attention - we will exit this planet with a vague sense of having missed some momentous - like what was REALLY important in our daily lives. 

So many of us spend our lives in profound anticipation of something really grand happening - so much so that we miss ALL that is truly grand happening every day around us.  This morning - I smelled my lilac bushes, took the time to walk through my garden to see the new plants emerge, and enjoyed every interaction with all of my amazing coworkers and family members.  Two months ago, I couldn't have said the same.

What is great about your life?  What day to day miracles are you missing?  Wake up - smell the flowers, pet your animals and kiss your spouse before it is too late....




CoQ10 - What Is It and Why Take It?

Another great supplement recommended by my Sutter cardiologist during my recent hospital "vacation"was CoQ-10.   This is not one that I have taken in the past with any regularity - as I thought heart disease would be the very last thing that I would ever have to suffer through.  Not so!

What is CoQ-10?   It is a co-enzyme (a substance that assists other enzymes with critical body processes) and an antioxidant; your body uses it to produce energy and it is found in every cell you have!  Think of it as a little mini generator inside your cells, without it, your cells couldn't do their jobs.  If you are on statin drugs to control cholesterol (and I now have been added to the many who have to take them), you should supplement with CoQ-10 as these drugs reduce the amount of natural CoQ-10 in your body by blocking their synthesis.   CoQ-10 levels also decrease with age.  

The cardiologist recommended that I visit Dr. Weil's website to learn more about these supplements.  Per Dr. Weil, CoQ-10 helps you have a healthy heart in several ways.   It supports blood vessel wall health, overall heart muscle health, overall circulatory health, and assists in maintaining the normal oxidative state of LDL cholesterol.   It also may help with migraines, and of all things, sperm motility.  It shows promise in the treatment of high blood pressure as well.  Dr. Weil recommends 90 to 120 mg of CoQ-10 if you have heart issues or are on statin drugs.

How can you get it from food?  CoQ-10 is found in its heaviest concentration in heart tissue (gnaw on those giblets!), but can also be gotten from sesame oil, canola oil, beef, chicken, herring, rainbow trout, broccoli, and cauliflower.  

If you take supplements, it is best to take them with food as CoQ-10 requires oil for absorption. 



On the Power of Vitamin D

One of the supplements my cardiologist recommended was vitamin D.  I recently read on Pinterest that over 75% of heart attack victims had lowered vitamin D levels - didn't see a source for that number/statistic, but believe that it is in the ball park based on all the research now focused on this necessarily nutrient.  It acts as a hormone, and regulates over 200 or more genes across the body.   WebMD cites a study by the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Murray, Utah, which had the following findings:

"The first study involved more than 9,400 patients whose blood tests revealed low vitamin D levels during a routine trip to the doctor. Their average vitamin D level was 19.3 nanograms per milliliter; levels of 30 are generally considered "normal," according to J. Brent Muhlestein, MD, the Institute's director of cardiovascular research.

At their next follow-up visit, about half had raised their vitamin D levels to above 30 nanograms per milliliter.

Compared with patients whose vitamin D levels were still low, patients who raised their vitamin D levels were 33% less likely to have a heart attack, 20% less likely to develop heart failure, and 30% less likely to die over an average follow-up period of one year.

In the second study, the researchers placed more than 41,000 patients into three categories based on their levels of vitamin D -- normal, moderate deficiency, and severe deficiency. Then they combed their medical records to see who had been diagnosed with heart disease or stroke.

As expected, patients with severe deficiency were most likely to have been diagnosed with heart disease or stroke, Muhlestein tells WebMD."


According to Dr. Michos of John's Hopkins Hospital, women tend to be deficient in vitamin D more often than men as we are more likely to wear sunscreen and/or stay out of the sun.  Older people tend to absorb vitamin D less, and fat cells also absorb vitamin D and keep it from circulating throughout the blood stream.    Interestingly enough, I was found to be vitamin D deficient in my last physical exam, so I absolutely believe this to have been a factor in my heart attack.

A simple blood test that your doctor can order will tell if you have this deficiency or not.  Supplementation is easy and inexpensive - most people probably need about 1,000-2,000 IU per day and I found small, easy to swallow pills at my local natural foods store.  If you prefer getting vitamin D from your diet, eat some mushrooms, milk, orange juice, fish, tofu, and/or eggs to help your body along.  Of course, a nice stroll outside on a sunny day doesn't hurt either!