Once you discovered you had high cholesterol and made the decision to approach it naturally with lifestyle changes, supplements, meditation, exercise, or yoga, did you turn into that person who wanted to educate everyone else? I did. That’s how this blog started. But it’s not an easy road, is it? Often people are resistant even argumentative and defensive. Did your words fall on deaf ears? As frustrating as it may seem, remember each of us is on a journey ... our own personal walk ... leading by example can work, but not if someone else isn’t ready to commit to a change. Change is hard for many people. Personally, I embrace change ... love it ... but I’m in a very small group. My mother once – ok, more than once – told me ... "those of us who are superior can afford to be gracious." Now, before you click that ‘x’ in the corner, understand I’m not more superior than anyone else specifically, but through my journey I may be able to use my experience to help those who ARE READY TO BEGIN THEIR JOURNEY. There are people in my life who are on a different type of journey and I feel fortunate to be able to enhance my journey through them.
An example of the roadblock I face often is in my own family and close friends. I love them dearly but have had to take a step back while they embrace their own journey. I can afford to be gracious because I can allow them to step into their lives when they’re ready and share my thoughts and opinions when an opportunity presents itself without being condescending. There was a time when I’d force my journey on them, only to discover resistance.
So what are we ... those of us who are well into our journey ... supposed to do while the rest of the world catches up? Take a deep breath ... really B*R*E*A*T*H*E and know we can’t change the world in our time frame. Be gracious, helpful, non-judgmental ... yeah, that’s a hard one. I find myself thinking ‘if someone knows they have high cholesterol, why wouldn’t they own it?’ The answer is simple ... they’re not ready to face it ... denial? Confusing information? Too many options? Options too hard? Or inconvenient? There are many, many reasons people just plain don’t bother. One way I have learned is to address one question at a time when someone approaches me about their high cholesterol. The conversation often starts with someone stating a general complaint about the side effects they are experiencing with a medication. Sometimes the comment comes unsolicited like they are searching not only for a conversation, but a solution. Usually I let them talk keeping quiet until I am addressed specifically. Then once I answer one question they start spewing rapid-fire questions hungry for the bottom line. When I tell them the first thing is to admit ownership I lose a good many. It’s much easier to blame their doctor who gave them the medication. They don’t want to research they want a simple answer. Medication can appear to be a simple answer, but often is not. Even the packaging on statin drugs encourages a healthy lifestyle of exercise and healthy foods and their doctor is likely to encourage the same thing ... and then there are the side effects for which a patient is likely given another medication or they play the “let’s try ‘this’ medication” game.
If you are a seasoned reader of this blog you know firsthand that owning your own health is the first step to success. All the information out there can be overwhelming and confusing ... I know ... I’ve been there! But all the information energized me and I enjoyed sharing my journey with others. You can read previous posts for all sorts of information from exercise, recipes, struggles, and joys!
Where are you on your high cholesterol journey? Are you just starting out or are you a veteran in the world of controlling high cholesterol? Have you had success? Or are you still experimenting with what works for you? I’d love to hear from you about what you’re doing and how it’s working for you.
Even if you eat perfectly prepared heart-healthy meals and exercise there may be one more thing you can do ... if your numbers are being stubborn and meds look like the only way to the cholesterol safe zone ask yourself this question ... is it what you eat or what’s eating you that is causing the trouble? Stress plays havoc on our bodies in many, many ways including blocking efforts to reduce your high cholesterol. So what is one to do? Your job may be stressful, your marriage, your kids, your money, your life! And now you have to worry about keeping stress at a minimum ... really? Popping a pill and hoping for the best (and no side effects) looks better all the time, right? Well ... that is an option and one taken by many people. Some don’t experience side effects, some do. Some have success, some don’t. Let’s look at some pretty easy ways to reduce whatever stress your facing.
Now assuming you are already eating heart-healthy I don’t have to talk about that - read previous blogs for ideas, if you need to. I don’t have to talk about exercise - again, previous posts will answer many questions about exercise. Stress! Let’s manage stress together. Personally, I have a serious stress in my life and rather than try to blame it on someone else, I will say that I bring on my stresses all by myself. I over work, I over volunteer, I over manage, I just plain overdo. I could talk myself into believing I’m doing everything I do for the right reasons, but if the things I love stress me out ... and yes, you can stress about good things, too ... what am I to do?
Deciding what you need to release some stresses in your life is personal ... you can opt to back off a little on projects you just can’t fit in, you can excuse yourself from a committee you signed up to do, or you can skip whatever you feel is best. I tried that, but I love all of what I do, including this blog, so I opted to continue working, volunteering, managing, and overdoing, but also opted to focus on some ways to relax a bit. OK, I’ll share .............
Breathe. Not just the quick breath, but a deep cleansing breath ... one that in its own little way energizes you and helps you to see more clearly. Go ahead ... take another one, let your shoulders drop gently ... they were up by your ears weren’t they? Mine were.
Stretch. If you are not ‘into’ yoga, allow me, please, to share some quick moves that will loosen some of the tension you may be feeling - and this is great for men and women ... and even children can benefit!
Standing tall with your feet either together or shoulder-width apart, shoulders back, pelvic floor tucked forward, head up, abs taut ... bring your hands together in a prayer-like position at the chest or heart-center, as it's called in the yoga world. A little hint, here ... if you spread your toes wide making sure each little piggie has contact with the floor you can balance a bit better. Close your eyes. Breathe ... slowly, deeply ... again .... again ... again ... and again. Now raise your hands over your head letting them move apart. Stretch. Hold it. Breathe. Return to the first position with your hands at your chest. Repeat. You can also from the hands extended position, lean over putting your hands on the floor (or as close as you can get to the floor) and breathe, letting your head and shoulders relax. This is a variation of sun salutation.
Tree pose is another good one, as is the warrior pose. I’ll put a link at the end of this if you’d like to see how they’re done.
Bottom line? If something’s eating at you ... face it, embrace it, or dismiss it. Your heart will thank you.
Here is a series of yoga poses ... if you need to modify one ... that's just fine ... the important part is breathing. Never push yourself if you feel pain ... relax and enjoy each pose. Click HERE.
I know eating healthy isn’t as easy as it sounds. Giving up chips, Twinkies, and 3-meat pizza would be a challenge for many people. So where’s a good place to start? It’s really easier than you think. Let’s start with adding a new recipe a week. Did you know you can sign up for newsletters from Vegetarian Times that provide you with recipes and ideas for low-fat, gluten-free, and heart-healthy? You can also use this website, Everyday Health for a wide variety of recipes.
The biggest challenge, in my humble opinion, is just doing it. Intention and potential are wonderful, but unless you make it happen it just won’t work. There is so much surrounding us that pushes us to make poor choices - super-sizing, tight schedules, peer pressure, or lack of will - to mention a few. So what actually may work to force you into a change? Forced medical concerns (like high cholesterol, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes) lack of energy, new variety of healthy foods available, television advertising for organic foods and healthy choices can all prompt you to think twice.
Now that you’re here and I seem to have your attention, let’s think about a list of simple changes you can do. Before you know it, you’ll find you’re feeling better, doctor’s visits will be good news and you’ll find your energy level slowly increasing.
Walk. OK, that’s too simple, right? We all need to walk more and we all know it. So what stops us? Oh, I don’t know ... working on blogs? Dabbling in the kitchen? Petting the cat? Watching television? Reading? Shopping? Working? Going out to lunch/dinner? Tending to your family’s needs? I find walking to do any of those activities is still walking. So when you’re shopping, rather than scout the parking lot for the closest spot ... park in the boondocks and walk in. Working? Take a small break and walk around the building. It’s autumn ... it’s cooler ... you have no excuse! Working on a blog? On your way to the computer, suck in your stomach and stand up straight, stretch, and walk the long way to your chair. Cooking? What a great time to do deep knee bends, stretch, twist, bend, and flex all those muscles. Every considered baking your own bread? Kneading the bread is great exercise. While we’re at it, do you use kitchen convenience tools like food processors, meat slicers, etc.? Try doing those tasks by hand like our grandmothers did. I promise you’ll get a workout! Bottom line ... make yourself do things the long and hard way.
Breathe. Sounds simple enough but do you realize most of us rarely take deep cleansing breaths? If you pay close attention to your own breathing you may notice a few things that are quick and easy to change. First of all SIT UP STRAIGHT! I know you’re hunched over your computer reading this and your diaphragm is all scrunched up forcing you to take small, shallow breaths. Sit up and take a deep cleansing breath. Need the whole scoop on breathing correctly. Click BREATHE.
Stretch. As we age our muscles become weak and tight. Stretching is critical feel great. I love to stretch and stretch all the time. I don’t think you can stretch too much, do you? I love to stretch at my desk and do it often. It really releases some muscle stresses I didn’t even know were there!
Food. Switch from white rice to brown rice ... white pasta to whole grain pasta ... ground beef to ground turkey ... fruit instead of chips/cookies ... nuts and dried fruit instead of chips and dip.
Go ahead ... take the plunge ... one step at a time.
I am ...
... a former blogger for a health site, which means eating healthy aka heart smart
which has become a passion for me. I will start at the beginning when I first
discovered I had high cholesterol.