Is Your Heart As Healthy As It Should Be?
I don’t have to tell you when your heart stops, it’s over. Well, you might still have a slim chance.
About 6% of people who die in hospital can be revived. But you know what their first words are after “coming back?”
“Why did you bring me back?!” Followed by something along these sentiments: “This was the first time in my life I felt fully accepted and loved.” We cling to life because it is all we know, but is it all there is? Listen to this story from Dr Zach Bush, a triple board certified former ICU and hospice physician shares his experiences with death and dying.
I just finished watching another video with a hospice nurse. I hope to be able to publish it soon. She confirmed that there is a way to die. A peaceful way, a happy way. Of course most of us reading this have never done it before, so we don’t really know how we will react.
It used to be that dying was mainly done at home with family members in attendance. Today not so much. It’s painful to realize that the pandemic and rules of isolation created a desperate situation where older people were dying away from family and loved ones. Seems inscrutable. Some got to say goodbye using Facetime. But without human touch. Without seeing human faces. Masks and latex gloves created boundaries that separated us from reality.
So we are not accustomed to dying. At least not in the West. In Burma, it’s different. Contemplation of one’s death is a daily ritual. It’s part of the circle of life and to be reminded on a daily basis that we are mortal and our flesh and bones will one day return to the earth from whence it came may be a good thing to recognize. Maybe it would provoke us to make better decisions with how we spend our time and with whom we spend our time.
There is no CEO who wishes upon his deathbed, “I wish I could have spent more time in the office!” More often it’s, “I wish I had spent more time with my kids.”
So bottom line is that we die. It’s only a matter of time.
Now how is it that life ends? Our hearts stop beating. One way or the other, that’s the determinate result.
Some say we only have one life to live. However, I think we have thousands and thousands of chances to live and only have to die once. If I were to liken dying to anything, I would say it’s like being born. Yes, there is trauma and difficulty, we are morphing from living in a sac of liquid to being exfiltrated to another way to live, one using breath and our lungs. It’s an amazing transition. We are usually pretty joyous at the scene of a birth and it’s a great cause for celebration.
While there are first hand accounts of those who have died and come back to tell about it, 99.99% of us don’t have personal experience.
So how about we do our best to keep on living a full healthy lifespan? Increasing lifespan is good. Increasing health span is even better.
There are several things I do to keep my heart healthy. You may recognize some of these simple concepts but there may be one or two things you haven’t heard. Please keep reading.
Sleep: In the Bible it says, “the evening and the morning were the first day.” So without arguing about religion, we all know the key to a good day is getting sufficient rest the night before. Sleep is recuperative and oh so necessary for repair and replenishing our body’s vital energy. So do whatever you need to do to sleep well!
One of my devices reminds me about 6pm to start winding down. This means to let go of work, let go of TVs and computers, stop eating, move into a calmer state. For me that means an evening stroll, good conversation with loved ones, sometimes listening to a book or even a baseball game. Winding down means don’t discuss politics or finances. We have plenty of hours in the day to do all that.
Don’t let stressful nonsense rob you of your peace. The Bible also says, “Don’t let the sun go down upon your wrath.” Don’t go to bed mad. In other words, fix your problems and relationships before your bedtime. Don’t hold on to grudges, grievances or bitterness. Let it go. If you have to, you can wrap it up in a bundle and park it in a cave high on a mountain somewhere. If you really need to retrieve it the next day, okay that’s up to you, but make that decision tomorrow. Your body will thank you.
Setting morning intentions: Upon awakening, you get to choose how you want to spend the day. I know you have obligations and work, but I mean you can choose your attitude, you can generate your own joy. You don’t need anyone’s permission. Let me repeat, do not give your happiness over to anything or anyone outside of yourself. Is the glass half full or half empty? Find gratitude in what you have.
Winners practice a lot using visualization. If you want to get really good at something, you practice. If you have an important meeting, visualize how you want that to go. Practice, practice and practice some more. Try this: If you think you can only do 10 pushups, visualize yourself doing 15, then try and see how many you can do. Chances are you may be limiting your potential by what and how you think. Visualize, then perform. Your body will thank you.
Nutrition: If you want to keep your heart in fine shape, remember it’s working around the clock. It needs proper fuel. That fuel is energy. It’s Adenosine Triphosphate.
What is the function of adenosine triphosphate? Adenosine 5′-triphosphate, or ATP, is the principal molecule for storing and transferring energy in cells. It is often referred to as the energy currency of the cell and can be compared to storing money in a bank. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the energy-carrying molecule found in the cells of all living things. ATP captures chemical energy obtained from the breakdown of food molecules and releases it to fuel other cellular processes. This is how your heart can beat tirelessly over 100,000 times a day. Now do you need coal, diesel, lead free gasoline or electricity to power your vehicle? You want to cleanest fuel you can find. It needs to be fresh, it needs to be clean. So where does our fuel come from? If you say it’s what you eat and drink, you’d be partially right. But the true answer is that all this energy we have on earth is from the sun. The sun is the energy source and the source of all living things. Without the sun empowering us we have no life.
So the sun causes plants to grow by way of photosynthesis, imbibing them with stored energy we call fats and carbohydrates. So eat plants, fruits and seeds, lots of them and if you are used to eating meat, then eat grass fed pastured animals that are humanely raised. Eat as simply and as locally as you can and eat with consciousness. Where we fail and even where the national food policy fails, we can work to make up by using supplements, minerals and vitamins. (True Omega-3 is the cornerstone product of this website!) Your body will thank you.
Movement: Have you ever seen a bug on the ground not moving? You don’t know if it’s dead or alive. As a kid, you might take a stick and touch it to see if it moves. The principle sign of life is movement. So find a way to move your body every day. Your muscles and joints will thank you. It’s true that many of us have jobs where we sit in front of computers and work. We might be moving our fingers and using our vocal chords. However, sitting is the new smoking, they say. Sitting for long periods wears out your organs more quickly and sludge builds up in the system. The lymph detox system runs on hydraulics and you have to move to engage. It’s good to sweat to move the lymph. It’s good to walk and ambulate.
Deeper Sense of Movement: It’s good to find a practice like yoga, tai chi or qi gong, to experience a deeper sense of the purpose of movement. If you work on a farm, you’re moving, a lot. If you have a job in the service industry, you’re probably on your feet moving. But office workers need hourly reminders to stand up, stretch, walk and go for a little fresh air once in awhile. When I see people jogging along a busy road, I think, great you’re moving, but find a clean place to do that! Noxious fumes are toxic and if your imbibing that while trying to get fit, it’s a little bit self-defeating.
Most people live within a few minutes of a park, if not a woods or forest. If you can get near trees and plants, realize they are the other half of our lungs. They breathe out oxygen that we need while we exhale carbon dioxide that they need! It’s a symbiotic relationship. There are various forms of the 4 and 5 minute workouts you can find online so let’s not pretend that we don’t have time to get at least some exercise. Your body will thank you.
Reducing chronic inflammation: Most heart attacks and strokes happen due to inflammation in the body, chronic inflammation that is. Our stress response is needed for survival and a moderate amount of inflammation is needed by your immune system to keep you free from infection.
That is what a fever is, the body wants to defeat invading pathogens that are trying to knock you off! Inflammation arises from several sources. Chronic stress can lead to chronic inflammation. Toxic air, water and food can lead to chronic inflammation. But by far most inflammation attacks the body from what we do with our mouths, or what we don’t do.
If we don’t practice excellent oral hygiene, our whole body will suffer. Yes, you should eat well and ensure you are getting a high diversity of food including fermented foods that ensure a healthy microbiota, but cleaning the palette by brushing, flossing and attending to not just the microbiome in your gut but the the microbiome in your mouth. Contact me if you need personal recommendations along this line. Your body will thank you.
Nasal breathing and Nitric Oxide: How we breathe can make a big difference in the quality of our health. Many of us are mouth breathers. We have a nose to breathe and a mouth to eat. By breathing through the nose, there is a huge amount of nitric oxide that is created that it not created when breathing through the mouth. Nitric Oxide was called the miracle molecule in 2002 mainly because of what the Nobel Prize Committee did in 1998.
The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1998 to Robert F Furchgott, Louis J Ignarro and Ferid Murad for their discoveries concerning “nitric oxide as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system.”
Translation: What nitric oxide does when released in the artery walls is to allow easier blood flow. So I want as much nitric oxide in my system as I can get. I exercise for it. I supplement for it. I even meditate for it. This past year, realizing that I am a mouth breather by night, I began a practice of mouth taping. Applying about a half an inch of medical tape to my lips before bed to gently remind me even in my sleep to breathe through my nose. This practice alone can add years to one’s life! Yes, your body will thank you!
There are many more habits or rituals that I have adopted and I’ll share more in another blog post but suffice it to say using some of these tips and practices may be of help to live a more self aware, conscious life. I’ve made a conscious study of wellness in the last 17 years and I wish I had this knowledge much earlier! It’s never too late to start doing the right things, but the earlier we get started at conscious living the better off we will be.
As always, my goal is to live a conscious life of health and happiness, taking into account that this is my responsibility and mine alone. You can not trust the medical system to do these baseline things for you. Once you learn a short cut, develop a new habit, or establish a helpful ritual, please share with others. Let’s help one another along.