Heart Healthy Tips for Battling Cholesterol and Type 2 Diabetes
And the answer to mom's question: "What Does That Have to Do with the Price of Tea in China?"
Heart Healthy Tips for Battling Cholesterol and Type 2 Diabetes
After being diagnosed with four cholesterol-jammed heart arteries in March 2012, I underwent quadruple coronary artery bypass graft surgery in April of that year. At the same time, I was told (to my surprise) I had full-blown Type 2 Diabetes (A1C of 10.4). The surgery went well and the long road to healing from heart disease and diabetes began.
Thanks to regular exercise and a healthier diet, I lost 60 pounds, the arteries that now service my heart are still flowing without problems, the blood sugar levels are way down (A1C = 6.0), and within eight months of the surgery, I no longer needed to take any prescription medications for either of these ailments…with the doctors' blessings, of course. It's now a decade later, and I am still prescription free, with the help of good food (Grow It Yourself!) and regular exercise. How did I do it? Here are some tips I use every day, that are posted on my whiteboard. Remember: I am not a doctor or nutritionist. I’m just a guy. A guy lucky to be alive, who could've easily keeled over and died back in March 2012. But I'm still here, still gardening, still riding my bike 100 miles a week (Don’t be put off by that. More on that towards the end of this newsletter). Maybe some of these tips can help you! Check with your doctors before embarking on a new journey involving diet and exercise to make sure it’s right for you.
• WRITE IT DOWN.
Track all the foods and liquids you consume, as well as time spent exercising. Good apps include myfitnesspal.com and calorieking.com
• WEIGH IT. MEASURE IT.
Get a small kitchen scale with a Tare weight (unladen weight) function.
• READ THE LABEL.
Pay attention to serving size, calories per serving, sugar and fiber content. What are the first ingredients listed? Avoid foods where sugar is in the top 3. Is the first ingredient whole grain, or flour? Choose whole grains.
• ADDED SUGAR IS YOUR ENEMY.
Too much sugar in the diet can make you susceptible to many diseases, not just heart disease and diabetes. Read “Fat Chance” by Dr. Robert Lustig for more information.
• SOLUBLE FIBER IS YOUR FRIEND.
Studies at the Mayo Clinic and other institutions have shown that soluble fiber may help lower blood cholesterol levels by reducing low-density lipoprotein, or "bad," cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber may have other heart-health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, blood glucose levels and inflammation.
• SMALLER PLATES, SMALLER SERVINGS.
• THE KITCHEN CLOSES AT 730 P.M.
Mindless evening calories can kill you.
• BREAKFAST LIKE A KING, LUNCH LIKE A PRINCE, DINNER LIKE A PAUPER. A 12-week study published in the journal Obesity compared two groups of women: one ate a large breakfast, the other ate a large dinner. Both groups consumed 1400 calories a day. While both groups lost significant amounts of weight, the women consuming the large breakfast lost an average of approximately 19 pounds compared to only about 8 pounds in the large dinner group. The breakfast group also lost twice as many inches around their waists than the large dinner eaters. These women also experienced higher levels of fullness throughout the day. In addition, large breakfast eaters also had significantly lower levels of insulin, glucose and fat in their blood, which may help lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease. (Journal, Obesity: July 2, 2013)
• EAT MORE FIBER. EAT LESS SUGAR.
My goals: at least 35 grams of fiber per day and less than 45 grams of added sugar per day. Choose foods with more fiber than sugar.
• SHOP FOR BREAD FROM THE FREEZER, NOT THE SHELF.
Freezer breads usually contain whole grains. Dr. Robert Lustig, UCSF: “Eat only whole-grain bread; that's not the same as whole wheat bread. The fiber is in the whole grain, which slows the sugar and glucose absorption.”
• CHOOSE WHOLE GRAIN BREAKFAST CEREALS.
Refined flours have only 25% of the fiber compared to whole grain cereals. (wholegrainscouncil.org)
• ADD WHOLE FRUIT, NOT SUGAR, TO CEREALS.
When you bite into a piece of fruit, the fruit’s fiber helps slow your absorption of fructose, the main sugar in most fruits.
This is, usually, a garden newsletter. It still is. So, let’s answer mom’s question, “What does this have to do with the price of tea in China?” (Usually uttered when she thought we were venturing too far afield of the main topic).
Gardeners have a head start to a healthier life. Your best sources of nutrition and exercise await you in your backyard. I truly believe that all the work involved in starting and maintaining a large garden - including regularly shoveling, wheelbarrowing and spreading mulch throughout the acreage - kept me from keeling over from a heart attack in early 2012.
So, I would urge you:
• GROW IT YOURSELF. Home grown food is the healthiest, freshest source of nutrition. Beyond that, according to a study at the University of Texas, growing heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables are more nutritious. (https://news.utexas.edu/2004/12/01/study-suggests-nutrient-decline-in-garden-crops-over-past-50-years/ )
• DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES.
Too much sugar in many store-bought drinks! And that includes fruit juices.
• GOT A WATER COOLER?
Go here instead of opening the refrigerator, looking for something to drink.
• BECOME THE SHOPPER, BECOME THE COOK. Getting the family to go along with you may be a challenge. But if you’re the one doing the shopping and the cooking, or at least actively participating in the process, you have a better chance to sway the family to healthier eating.
• SHOP THE PERIMETER OF THE SUPERMARKET.
The perimeter of the supermarket is where the healthiest foods can be found: fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats. But read the label of dairy products for hidden sugar!
• DON’T SHOP AT COSTCO BEFORE LUNCH.
And stick to your shopping list. Hunger = impulse buying.
• TV, RADIO, INTERNET WANT YOU FAT.
Start counting the ads for unhealthy food and drinks. You are being seduced!
• LET’S GO FOR A WALK!
Walking helps maintain a healthy weight; helps prevent or manage heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes; Strengthens your bones; Lifts your mood; Improves your balance and coordination. Walking can burn 200-400 calories an hour.
• QUALITY SHOES, QUALITY SOCKS.
Choose shoes made for walking or hiking. And, your feet are not the same size throughout your adult life. Measure your feet in the late afternoon for a correct fit. Hiking socks with cushioned soles will make a difference.
• CONSIDER JOINING A GYM.
For cardio, weight training, positive reinforcement and comraderie. According to the Mayo Clinic, strength training also helps you: Develop strong bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Controls your weight. Boosts your stamina and balance. Manages chronic conditions, including back pain, arthritis, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
• THE MORE YOU EXERCISE, THE MORE YOU CAN EAT!
Remember, you only count “net calories” (Total calories minus calories burned exercising). Mayo Clinic: Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic training. Do strength training exercises at least twice a week.
• YOU CAN’T OUT-EXERCISE A BAD DIET.
Exercise does not negate the bad effects of consuming too much added sugars as your “bonus calories”. I know that from personal experience.
• BE YOUR OWN CHEERLEADER!
Try it for one day. The next day, use your previous day’s success to move you forward.
• SURROUND YOURSELF WITH BELIEVERS.
Join a walking group or a cycling club, or a gym. Follow people online who reinforce a positive attitude.
• HOW DO YOU FEEL? WRITE IT DOWN!
Put it in your food notes. I’ve noted a correlation between down moods and the aftermath of excess sugar consumption.
• FIND YOUR NATURAL VALIUM.
A walk in a garden, an easy bike ride, enjoyable music, petting your dogs and cats!
• NAPS ARE GOOD. SLEEP IS GREAT!
Research by the National Institutes of Health shows that lack of sleep increases the risk for obesity, heart disease and infections. Get 7-8 hours a night.
• EVERYDAY IS A NEW DAY!
The beauty of looking at the online calorie counters such as My Fitness Pal or Calorie King: everyday starts with a blank slate.
• IT’S NOT A DIET; IT’S A LIFESTYLE.
You “lose” car keys, cellphones, or pets. You hope they come back. Don’t “lose” weight. Get rid of it, permanently!
• BABY STEPS.
Don’t overdo exercise at first. Work up to the recommended amounts. Choose healthier food alternatives to start off: non-fat milk instead of low-fat milk instead of whole milk; lite salt, Mrs. Dash salt-free seasonings, meat substitutes. Salsa instead of ketchup, pico de gallo instead of salsa.
• ENJOY THE SIDE BENEFITS!
For me, the migraine headaches disappeared! Plus, I had more energy, less body aches, and new clothes that fit!
• YOU’RE NOT TOO OLD TO ACHIEVE BETTER HEALTH!
People who eat right and exercise can substantially reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease and death even if they’re in their 50s or 60s. According to the American Journal of Medicine (July 2007), a multi-year study showed that older adults who exercise at least 2.5 hours per week, maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke and consume at least five fruits and vegetables daily will lessen their chances of heart trouble by 35 percent, and the risk of dying by 40 percent, compared to people with less healthy lifestyles.
• YOU CAN DO IT!!!
If I can do it, so can you.
I mentioned earlier I ride my bike 100 miles a week. That is not an athletic achievement. It takes me about 8-9 hours a week to do that, usually along the 32-mile American River Bike Trail in the Sacramento (CA) area. So, my average speed is 12-13 miles per hour, which is below the speed limit on the trail (as well as local cycling clubs and e-bikes), but well within the range to achieve mindfulness, sort of a meditation. I call it my weekly “Cycle-Therapy” sessions. When I am on my bike, I’m on vacation, and I am all smiles. And when I dismount, the good feeling remains for hours. Bill Walton is right: I LOVE MY BIKE. And according to the Mayo Clinic, meditation can have physical health benefits. Some research, says the Mayo Clinic, indicates that meditation can help manage stress as well as physical problems such as:
High blood pressure
Irritable bowel syndrome
More books, articles, and one movie, for information, inspiration, motivation:
Food Rules by Michael Pollan
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
Undo It: How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases by Dr. Dean Ornish
Slim By Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life by Brian Wansink
The RAVE Diet and Lifestyle - 3rd Edition by Mike Anderson
YouTube Movie: Eating documentary by Mike Anderson
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Fred Hoffman is also a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener in Sacramento County.