Welcome to Sharondipitous Moments

Welcome to Sharondipitous Moments

A few years back I started this blog.  I wanted to write humorous commentary.  The title, Sharondipitous Moments, was a play on my name and my belief in the brilliance of serendipity.  Then on January 19, 2016, I had a heart attack.  As heart attacks go, mine wasn’t particularly severe.  When I was able, I joined other patients in cardiac rehab and with my doctor’s advice started a weight loss program.  Then almost 1 year to the date after the attack, I experienced pressure in my jaw while exercising.  My cardiologist said,  “No more exercising until you’ve had another cardiac cath.”  I avoided a second attack, but my LAD (aka the “widow maker”) was 95% blocked.  I was shocked, discouraged and depressed.

Who would have thought something so horrible could be so serendipitous?  I had started attending WomenHeart meetings at Baptist Health Systems, Miami Cardio and Vascular Institute.  A member asked me if I would be interested in attending a WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota.  I did and graduated from the symposium with 57 other dynamic, fantastic women as a WomenHeart Champion and Community Educator.

I love writing.  I particularly enjoy story-telling and humor.  That will continue to be part of this blog.  Now I have an opportunity to share some knowledge I’ve gained as a cardiac survivor.  So in addition, you’ll also see some information on Health & Wellness, and this wonderful organization, WomenHeart, of which I am a part.  Enjoy!

 

Health Care and the Warm Fuzzies

Health Care and the Warm Fuzzies

You’ve undoubtedly seen the commercials on TV for healthcare insurance.  I call them the “warm fuzzies,” since that’s the feeling they hope to exude.  The actors are smiling, deliriously happy, content and thrilled with their coverage.

Let’s step back a bit and take a realistic look at what happens.  Today, I had an appointment with my cardiologist.  It was made 6 months ago.  I know this because he expressly set up a 6-month follow-up with me.  He’d also made an appointment for some tests which I’d had a week ago.  I received a call last week from the doctor’s office, reminding me of my appointment.

I arrived, signed in and had a seat.  After a moment the lady at the front desk called my name.  It seems there was some question about my appointment.  The staff was missing a referral.  I explained the date had been made months ago and I’d even received a reminder from this office within the last week.  “But we don’t have a referral from your primary.”

I decided to call my internist to find out if they could send a referral.  The receptionist said she’d check on it and put me on hold.  While the “elevator music” was entertaining, after several minutes I decided to call back.  The receptionist explained the person that takes care of referrals was not in.  I’ve seen a note in my internist’s office that there is a 5-day wait on referrals.  I can understand last minute requests need to be discouraged.  On the other hand, I was standing in the cardiologist’s office waiting for my appointment.

I explained to the staff that I could not get the referral.   They were checking with the insurance company and finally offered to have me set up another appointment.  By this time, 45 minutes had passed.  My frustration was palpable, my blood pressure had risen and rather than have a cardiac event in the office, I left.

Once home, I called the insurance company — those people whose biggest thrill in life is to make me deliriously happy.  The member engagement individual attempted to reassure me as she explained what is at best a convoluted system.  When I make an appointment, like this one, 6 months in advance, I have to remember to have my internist send a referral.  However, she can’t do that 6 months out, because it will expire after 3 months.  That’s right folks, I have to wait 3 months and then have my primary doctor send a referral.  My headache was increasing.

I have CVD, a diagnosis that isn’t going away anytime soon.  One might even say it’s a chronic condition.  It’s vital that I see a cardiologist at least once or twice a year.  Apparently, my health insurance company knows better than my doctors, the American Heart Association, and the AMA.

My next call was to my internist.  I explained I needed a referral so I could make an appointment with my cardiologist.  “We need to have the date of the appointment.”

“I don’t have an appointment yet.”

“But we need the date before we can do the referral.”

OMG.  There appears to be a conspiracy.  The medical establishment has decided to do me in.  Mind you, they are all very polite.  If anyone was losing it, it was me – not them.  They all told me how they regretted my plight, but as the words, “I’m sorry….” were uttered, a pause trailed off as if they knew to add the word “but” would indicate their total lack of empathy.

It was time to call the cardiologists office.  I spoke with someone briefly, explaining what had happened.  He put me on hold for a few minutes and then said, the first appointment we have with your doctor is in July.

“Do you not understand he wanted to see me today, six months ago?  Maybe 3 months more won’t hurt, or on the other hand, maybe I’ll be dead by then.”

“I’m sorry, let me check further.”  When he returned to the line, he said he was going to do some more work on this and would call me again in the afternoon.  “Let me see if I have all your information…Oh, I just realized today is your birthday.”

“Yes, it is.  And so far today, the medical establishment seems to be determined it will be my last!”

My 9:45 am appointment has long since passed.  I received a call from the cardiologist’s office.  I have an appointment on May 23rd.  I’ve contacted my internist with the date so a referral can be prepared.  The insurance company assured me that I can verify everything online.  The time is 5 pm.  What a fantastic way to celebrate a birthday.

Like George Bush, I remember a kinder, gentler time, when you could just make an appointment with a doctor and go see him or her.  But now we have warm fuzzies — that only exist in your mind.

 

BODY LANGUAGE

BODY LANGUAGE

The definition of body language is, “the process of communicating nonverbally through conscious or unconscious gestures and movements.”  But, I’m thinking of something different.  I’m here to discuss how your body speaks to you.  If you are sick, your body might ache, and your temperature rise.  These are straightforward messages from your body.  However, sometimes, the language is more subtle.  Let me tell you a story to illustrate what I mean.  It’s Martin Luther King’s birthday, 2016 about 12:39 am.

I awoke in extreme pain.  I had a toothache.  It’s the kind of pain you feel when you require a root canal.  I got out of bed, walked into the kitchen and got a drink of water.  As I wandered around the house, the pain began to subside.  I was exhausted and asked myself, “Did I really feel that?”  I finally convinced myself it was my imagination and went back to bed.

A few hours later, the pain returned.  I’ve undergone a root canal, and I know the pain doesn’t come and go.  I was also aware that when having a heart attack, one can experience referred pain.  Instead of feeling pain in your chest, it can be in your head, neck, arms, or back.  I figured I’d better check this out — and I did.  I went straight to Dr. Google.  I looked up angina.  There’s stable and unstable angina, the latter indicating a heart attack.

Not having graduated from medical school, but considering myself an excellent diagnostician, I determined I did NOT have a heart attack.  Mind you, I had just read on the Mayo Clinic site that unstable angina occurs even at rest (I was asleep) and often is unexpected.

My doctor’s office would be open in a couple of hours, and I decided to call her.  In the meantime, I took a shower, dressed, and worked in my office.

I explained to the receptionist I believed I might be having angina.  The doctor got on the phone and asked for my symptoms.  I told her what had occurred and she said, “Go to the Emergency Room.”

I countered with, “Well, I thought I’d just come to your office.”

“I don’t have time to drive you to the ER.  Go to the hospital … and don’t drive yourself.”

After some blood tests, chest x-rays, and EKGs, a young ER doctor came to the room I was in and said, “You’ve had a heart attack.”  Quite frankly, he looked to me to be about 19.  What could he possibly know?  Apparently, more than I.  Within minutes a very tall cardiologist walked in and said, “You’ve had a heart attack.  We won’t know the severity until you have a cardiac catheterization.”

Ten hours had passed since I felt the first pain.  Also, I’d experienced fatigue, another symptom of a heart attack.  What did I do as I was having a heart attack?  I went back to bed, diagnosed myself, worked in my office, and yes, took a shower!  Had my occlusion been in a different artery, those decisions could have been fatal.

Like many victims of a heart attack, I looked at the event and my quick recovery and figured, that’s it — I’m well.  I actually thought, “Is that all there is to a heart attack?”  What I didn’t consider is the cause and effect aspect.   The heart attack was fixed with a stent. However, the underlying cause, cardiovascular disease, was still with me.

Almost one year to the date of my event, I was exercising more rigorously than usual in Cardiac Rehab when I began feeling some pressure in my jaw.  No pain, just pressure.  I stopped and asked someone to take my blood pressure.  It was elevated from exercise, but nothing concerning.  So I continued my routine.  As I was leaving, I mentioned what had happened to a nurse.  She said to call my doctor.  I did and was told to come right in.  My doctor, in turn, called my cardiologist and within a week I was back in the cath lab.

I had somehow avoided a second heart attack.  However, my Left Anterior Descending Artery  (a/k/a WidowMaker) was 95% occluded.  This event was potentially worse than the earlier heart attack.

Your body speaks to you.  I pretty much ignored my first cardiac encounter.  Fortunately, even though the second message was much more subtle, I listened.  Quick action saved my life.

Here are my rules to live by.  First, listen to your body.  Second, know your numbers:

Blood Pressure:  The new “Normal” is less than 120/80

Triglycerides:  Normal is less than 150mg/dl

Cholesterol:  LDL less than 70 (it was 100); HDL more than 40

Third, get some exercise.  You don’t need a gym.  Go for a walk in the park or if the weather is not conducive, go to a mall.  The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of exercise daily.

Oh, and if you’re still smoking, STOP!

Our bodies speak to us when something is wrong, in a language that is sometimes confusing or subtle.  In our busy worlds, we tend to ignore the message or pull a Scarlett O’Hara saying, “I just can’t think about this now.  I’ll think about it tomorrow.”  But here’s the rub: tomorrows aren’t guaranteed.

Editors Note:  This was a speech given at Miracle Mile Toastmasters on March 7, 2019.

 

“After all, tomorrow is another day.”

“After all, tomorrow is another day.”

 

Who do you think of when you hear these words: feisty, determined, flirty, independent?  The first person who comes to my mind is Scarlett O’Hara.  Not only do I think of the character in “Gone With The Wind,” but I’m also reminded of my little cat, Katie Scarlett.  She arrived when some neighborhood children found Scarlett and her four siblings. She immediately claimed her dominance among the pride.  I found homes for two kittens, three remained with me – Scarlett, Melanie, and Gatsby.

Walking my sister’s dog was an adventure for Scarlett.  She ran ahead, came back and informed the dog she was far too slow, urging her to speed up the pace.  A neighbor, down the street, had a bird bath in her back yard.  Now there was a favorite place for my little girl.  She’d crouch and hide, waiting for a bird to land.  Then as it took wing, she’d leap in the air, sometimes catching her prey.  There was more than one time I was running to save the bird.  Her agility was stunning, especially for such a petite kitty.

I traveled in my last job, and my neighbor’s boys took turns petsitting for my cats.  I returned one day and realized after a few moments that someone was missing.  Where was Scarlett?  I went outside calling her name and clapping my hands.  I walked toward the birdbath house, and suddenly she appeared.  She had a lot to say.  I don’t know how long she was outside, but it was long enough for her to vent her anger.  Her meowisms could be interpreted to mean, “Where have you been?  Do you know how long I’ve been out here?  I’m hungry.  Get me some food!  After I eat, I’m going to bed — don’t disturb me.  I need my beauty sleep.”  Scarlett did not suffer in silence.

Those memories are from long ago.  My Katie is 19 years old (or 92 in human years).  Life has become more difficult.  She’s not interested in grooming herself, and her fur is somewhat matted.  Her teeth are getting lose so eating is a challenge.  My beautiful Katie Scarlett seems to be saying, “It’s time to call it a day.”

The downside for any pet owner is accepting the end and making it easier for our little friends.  As I think about Scarlett’s quote, “After all, tomorrow is another day,” I realize sadly it will be a day without my little darling.  Rest in Peace dear Scarlett.

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Fred & Ginger Had Rhythm, Do You?

Fred & Ginger Had Rhythm, Do You?

We’re talking about circadian rhythm.  From the Latin circa (around) and diem (day), circadian rhythm is any biological process that displays an endogenous, entrainable oscillation of about 24-hours.  These 24-hour rhythms have been widely observed in plants and animals (including we humans).  So, while we all have an inert rhythm – why don’t we “dance” to it?

In the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the brain, we have a “clock,”  which governs when we sleep and rise, taking (in part) its cues from light sources to govern our 24-hour day.  Doctors Michael Roizen and Michael Crupain suggest in their new book, “What to Eat When,” this biological rhythm affects our digestion and hormonal levels,  and it dictates when it’s best to exercise and to eat.  In fact, they propose that “when we eat, is just as important as what we eat.”

Two weight loss studies conducted by Dr. Jakubowicz, of Tel Aviv University, include the effects of circadian rhythm.

In a 12-week study, 93 obese women, were divided into two groups.  The objective for all was to lose weight on a 1400 calorie per day diet consisting of moderate-carb and moderate-fat intake.  The food consumed was the same, except that one group’s breakfast was composed of 700 calories, lunch 500 calories, and dinner 200 calories.  Group 2 did the reverse, 200 calories at breakfast, 500 at lunch and 700 at dinner.

Everyone lost weight.  The big breakfast group lost an average of 17.8 pounds and 3 inches off their waistline. The big dinner group lost 7.3 pounds and 1.4 inches off their waistline.  The more abundant breakfast group also showed significantly lower levels of ghrelin (often referred to as the hunger hormone), and a decrease in insulin, glucose and triglyceride levels.

In another study, 193 obese, non-diabetic adults participated in a 32-week study.  Again, they were divided into two groups.  Men had 1600 calories per day, women 1400 calories.  One group had a low carbohydrate diet with a 300 calorie breakfast; the other was high in both proteins and carbohydrates and always included a dessert for breakfast.  This meal came in at 600 calories.  After the study, the group with the big breakfast lost, on average, 40 pounds more than their peers.  Part of the problem for the low carb, small breakfast group was the participants didn’t endure denial well for 32 weeks.  As mentioned in an earlier post, when faced with deprivation, one can sometimes become depraved.

While the Israeli studies results are compelling, they are supervised diets, and I wouldn’t advise something so drastic without direction from a professional.

In urban America, our days are filled with work, school, and other activities.  We leave homes at different times, not having breakfast as a family unit.  During the day, there is work, school, after-school activities, and appointments.  Our calendars are full.  At the end of the day a family, hopefully, can sit down as a unit for what is usually their largest meal.  Complicating our lives, even more, is the control technology has over us.

So I asked myself, “how can I incorporate a better “when” into my diet day?”  I figured this would be a relatively easy process.  I  was wrong.  Even following the book’s four guidelines can be problematic.  I get up early and have a substantial breakfast (which includes fat, protein and whole grains) by 8 am.  I plan lunch between 12 and 1 pm.  Dinner is my smallest meal, and I try to eat it between 5 and 6 pm.  This is fairly compatible with the guidelines.  However, keeping a consistent mealtime schedule is not as easy as I’d thought.  It’s here the adage, “make plans and life happens,” comes in to play.

The doctors also discuss what to eat when you’re experiencing stress or grief, how to handle health issues and other everyday life challenges that arise.  Importantly, they do speak to “mindful” eating.  Enjoying a meal without phone or text interruption, and eliminating television programming while dining is recommended.

There is science to aligning our circadian clock with our hunger clock.  Do you want to figure out how you can incorporate the “when” into your day?  Read “What to Eat When.”  Some suggestions may be easier to integrate into your life than others, but there is no doubt, better positioning the two rhythms can be beneficial to your well-being.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAVIGATING THE DIET MELANGE

NAVIGATING THE DIET MELANGE

This is the time of year when diet companies and weight loss plans, make promises to transform you — producing a better, fitter, and more amazing you.  Many suggest these remarkable changes will occur almost overnight, with little or no effort.  As with anything in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  I decided to do some research.  Every year U.S. News & World Reports puts out a list of the best diets.  I checked out those top rated.  Here is a link to the article:  https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall.

The left-hand column of the article provides ways you can customize a diet.  There are rankings (kinds of programs), or you can modify the type of regime, as well as specific preferences you desire.

When I started on my weight loss journey, I had 2 objectives:  1) Lose weight and 2) Not ever have another heart attack.  To be honest, there is no guarantee of the second goal. The reality is I have cardiovascular disease (CVD).  After my myocardial infarction (MI), stents were inserted, and it resolved an immediate problem.  It did not take away the CVD.  For me, this is a good-news, bad-news scenario.  The bad news is I could experience (and almost did) another cardiac event, the good news is I have learned and continue to learn how to listen to my body and take better care of it.

The top 3 diets overall, at U.S. News were:  1) The Mediterranean Diet, 2) The Dash Diet, 3) The Flexitarian Diet.  In all 3 plans, you do the shopping at your local market  — there are no premade meals to buy.  While they all recommend fresh fruits and vegetables, you might consider frozen vegetables, which are generally harvested in their prime and quick-frozen.  Be sure you get the veggies without sauces, butter, etc.  Plant-based proteins are advocated (legumes, beans, nuts), but you don’t have to give up lean meat.  There are hundreds of recipes available online and cookbooks dedicated to all 3.

I was listening to Dr. Jen Ashton, the Chief Health and Medical Editor, and Chief Medical Correspondent for ABC News and Good Morning America, discuss the finding from U.S. News.  In addition to being a physician, Dr. Ashton received a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Columbia University in 2016.  Credentials in nutrition are a rarity among physicians.  One thing Dr. Ashton emphasized is that any diet has to be “sustainable.”  If any program is not easy to follow you will likely give up.  All 3 of these diets are easy to follow.

Since a primary reason for researching diets was because of my concern over heart health, I feel compelled to mention the Ornish Diet, which tied for #1 with the Mediterranean Diet in the Heart Healthy category.  A preeminent difference between this and the Mediterranean Diet is that it is incredibly restrictive with the use of oils (even unsaturated), foods containing cholesterol, animal products, etc.  The plan emphasizes stress management and exercise in addition to diet.  Both are essential to maintaining a healthy heart.

While I don’t follow it flawlessly, my diet most resembles the Mediterranean Diet.  Hell, I am Italian after all.  Of course, if you look at the European portion of the Mediterranean Sea, it encompasses Greece, Italy, France, Turkey, and Croatia — all with different kinds of cuisine.  Yet they all share a similar pyramid.  All meals include the base (this is where most of your food will come from) encompassing fruits, grains, vegetables, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, along with herbs and spices.  Next up on the pyramid is fish and seafood.  These you have at least 2 times per week.  Next up is poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt which you have in moderate portions daily to weekly.  The tip of the pyramid contains meats and sweets — these foods, of course, are in limited quantities.

There is one other thing we must consider when discussing the Mediterranean Diet.  People from that region, do not hop in the car to go to the mall or market.  They walk just about everywhere or ride bikes (how un-American).  In other words, they are not couch-potatoes, they are active.  Don’t expect to lose weight, if you aren’t moving.  Think at least 30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercise.  If you’ve been inactive, start off incorporating physical activity 3 days a week, increasing your workout as you can.

So there you have it.  The top diets, according to U.S. News.  There are more.  Under best weight loss diets, you can find Weight Watchers, Volumetrics Diet; Best Fast Weight Loss Diets gives us HMR Diet, Atkins Program and Keto Diet; Best Commercial Diets include Jenny Craig and Nutritarian.  OMG, it goes on and on.

There are additional charges to join many of the Weight Loss and Commercial Diet Plans, plus monthly fees.  Some have group meetings, meetings with counselors (or a combination of both) and some are available online You need to choose what works for you.  Prepared food can be purchased directly from the company or at your local market, reducing preparation time for the user.  Just remember Dr. Ashton’s advice, whatever you select, IT MUST BE SUSTAINABLE.

Early on I tried Weight Watchers and dropped it because while it offered portion control and a pretty healthy approach, I didn’t know how many macro and micronutrients I was getting per meal or per day.  Was I getting too many carbs, too much fat?  It simply didn’t follow the lifestyle of a control freak.  However, others swear by it and if it’s working for you, stick with it.

Finally, I judge my diet results, not on a number on the scale, nor a dress size.  I look at my waist size (more on this in a future post) and most importantly on lab results, and maintaining healthy blood pressure.

Our obsession with diet has created a multi-million dollar industry, which is difficult to navigate.  We need to have a “buyer beware,” sign out there as we evaluate what’s in our best interests.

What do you do?  How do you measure your success?  There was a lot to this post.  I hope I didn’t discourage you.  Let me know your thoughts.

 

Taking the Die Out of Diet!

Taking the Die Out of Diet!

“Hey, I’m depraved on account I’m deprived.” Dear Officer Krupke, West Side Story

You’ve decided it’s time.  You’ve literally eaten your way through Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s.  If that wasn’t enough — you consumed enormous quantities of calories attending all those holiday parties.  You are left with a widening waistline, little or no energy, and quite often a dip in your self-esteem.

When you think of the word “diet,” what comes to mind?  How about:

  1. Low fat (or no fat)
  2. No pasta, no bread, no sweets –NO CARBS
  3. Limited calories
  4. No Alcohol
  5. Salads, salads, salads (OMG, I hate green food)
  6. Gluten-free foods — What the hell is gluten?
  7. Starvation

If you can say “Yes” to one or more of the above, you are in deprivation mode.  Trust me, that inevitably leads to becoming depraved.  An example of this kind of depravity is simple.  I do not like coconut.  I’m not fond of the aroma, the taste, or the texture of those shavings placed on top of desserts.  If I am told I cannot have coconut, I will begin to crave it.  In anticipation of expected deprivation, I become depraved!

Like many of you, I’ve tried so many weight loss plans and had little or no success.  Maybe I lost some pounds, but stop the diet, and they would miraculously reappear.  In surrender, I’d thrown my arms in the air figuring, I’d never win in the diet arena.  As I stated in my previous blog post, what finally got my attention was a heart attack.  This weight problem was no longer a vague idea of looking better, my life was on the line.

My life is so often serendipitous.  It took 2 years to find my primary physician.  Incredibly, she is board certified in obesity medicine and has more than a nodding acquaintance with nutrition.  She provides seminars for her patients which include professional dietitians, psychologists, and physical therapists.  She started me on the path of my weight loss journey.  To date, I’ve said goodbye to 35 pounds.

In addition, I’ve taken on-line nutrition courses through edtogo.com.  This does not make me an expert, but I’ve found some things that have worked for me — and that may work for you.  Perhaps you can share some of your experiences that will help other readers.

There is no “one size fits all” diet out there.  Wish there was — bet you do too.  However, sharing what’s worked and what hasn’t might give someone else a “leg-up.”

The “Food for Thought” section of my blog will include suggestions, ideas, recipes (if from another source, there will be links to them).  I hope you are as excited about this section in my blog, as I.  Let me hear from you.

 

HAPPY 2019

HAPPY 2019

Hello there, readers.  Here we go again.  I don’t know about you, but the year 2018 seemed to be on a race to get to the finish line.  Wasn’t it just yesterday when we were ringing in “18, “and now it’s history.

Who out there has resolutions for 2019?  How many have already broken them?  How many of you have at the top of the list something to do with “diet?”  I heard on the news that approximately 80% of us are stressing over losing weight.

In the past couple of years, I’ve lost more than 35 pounds.  Someone asked me,  “how did you lose all that weight?”  My response was, “Well, I think it was the heart attack that got my attention.”   That’s a bit extreme, so during this year, we can explore what’s worked for me and also for you.  Keep in mind, there doesn’t appear to be a “one-size-fits-all” diet out there!

I’m thinking about a new Vision Board.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a collage of words, pictures, and aspirations for the coming year.  Once put together, it should be placed in a prominent place as a reminder of what you wish to gravitate towards.  As opposed to a “New Year’s Resolution,” this adds greater intent and resolve.

I plan to spend much more time writing…both on my blog and other venues.  Hopefully, I’ll be posting weekly, and plan to spend more time on health and wellness.  That being said, I’ve embarked on a “Dry January” challenge, the purpose is to enhance your health. It is said when doing this you are more focused, your skin (the largest organ of the body) is healthier, and you sleep better.

Those of you who know me well, are aware I love my wine!  I’ve written before, that I was born in Milwaukee, raised in Chicago, but grew up in the Bay area of California — next door to the wine country!

So here I am, with no wine in the house.   As I write this, we are only on day 7, and I can say I’m more focused.  Once the challenge is completed, I’ll let you know my results.

I’m excited about the prospect of 2019. Until my next post, have a great week and keep the “Happy” in your days!