Long QT in our Family Tree

“You are a link in a chain of causation that stretches before and after your life for a thousand generations.”

–Rev. Chris Michaels, founding minister of the Center for Spiritual Living, Kansas City, Mo.

Yes, I am but a link in the chain of life. As I think back in time, I believe that my life has taken a certain path based on the choices my ancestors made before me. As they departed, they left behind an energized and loving reminder embedded within my heart and soul. They have endowed within me a firm work ethic, a solid foundation of love of God and neighbor and a desire for knowledge and growth.

Our ancestors represent those who made the trek before us. We maintain our vigilance because of our ancestors’ example, determination and faith in our Lord. Knowing they walked before us, we realize that we can walk on after them.

There is also a physical connection. Not only do we look like them, but we also carry the same DNA they do/did. Passed down from parent to child, DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the human hereditary material found in every cell in the body. It contains the information organisms needed to develop and reproduce. DNA is the carrier of genetic material that makes us susceptible to the similar disease processes and genetic flaws. DNA makes each individual unique. It can help you better understand YOU, your family, and your family health history, which is essential to well-being.

Genetic mutations are linked to conditions such as cancer or heart disease, often appear later in life and can cause problems when passed to future generations.

Heart disease is the most readily identifiable disease process in my family tree. Both my parents had heart disease. My mother died of aortic valve disease and my father died of coronary artery disease in his early fifties. Two grandparents died of heart disease, one on maternal side and one of paternal side.  My family history also contains the genetic disease-causing change or mutation known as Long QT Syndrome (LQTS) which is caused by abnormalities of the heart’s electrical conduction system. I am a steadfast supporter of the American Heart Association by default and by concern.

Just like there exists one common ancestor that gives family members the human trait of blue eyes, there exists a common ancestor that passed on the mutation that causes Long QT syndrome which is a genetic predisposition to an abnormal heart rhythm disorder. Long QT syndrome is passed down in families from parent to child. Every human being has two copies of each of these genes; one is inherited from their mother and one from their father. Offspring of a person with Long QT have a 50% chance of inheriting the mutation from their parent. There is a female prevalence observed in Long QT syndrome. A 2007 study involving LQTS1 patients observed that female carriers are more likely than male to transmit the genetic mutation to their offspring. Additionally, female carriers are more likely to transmit the LQTS1 gene to their daughters than to their sons.(1)

Long QT Syndrome (LQTS) may cause fast, erratic heartbeats (arrhythmia), being potentially life-threatening. It is characterized by a prolonged QT interval on an EKG.  Prolonged QT intervals increases risk for torsades des pointes which is an arrhythmia where the ventricle beats irregularly at a rapid rate, making the heart unable to pump blood effectively through the body. When the brain does not receive an adequate blood supply, the result is fainting or seizure-like activity. If the arrhythmia continues, sudden cardiac death is the result.

An EKG cycle consists of five waves denoted by the letters P, Q, R, S, T which correspond to the different phases of the heart activities. In the syndrome known as Long QT, the QT interval is prolonged, taking the heart’s electrical system longer than normal to recharge between beats. This can result in a potentially life-threatening situation.

Symptoms are provoked in a person with long QT:

  • During exercise or shortly afterwards
  • During high anxiety or stressful situations
  • During emotional excitement, especially when being startled and
  • During sleep or upon waking suddenly

Three major types of Long QT syndrome were identified in the 1990’s — KCNQ1, KCNH2 and SCN5A— which relate to the three genes and their associated proteins of cardiac potassium or sodium. The syndrome genetically identified in our family is Type 1(LQTS1) or KCNQ1 which is the most common type. This is a loss of function mutation on the gene KCNQ1 on chromosome 11p delaying the heart’s repolarization and prolonging the QT interval, with potentially life-threatening results.

Long QT syndrome is generally caused by a flawed gene affecting the heart’s electrical activity and is inherited from a parent. The greatest risk factor for provoking an LQT1 sudden cardiac death is being placed on medications that are QT dangerous. There is a website known as CREDIBLEMEDS.org https://www.crediblemeds.org/ that contains a database of QT-aggravating medications. The site is constantly being updated and serves as a needed source of information for medical providers, individuals, and family members.

In addition to QT-prolonging drugs to avoid, a person with LQTS1 should pay special attention to electrolyte and hydration replenishment, especially in the setting of vomiting and diarrheal sickness, as low body potassium is potentially QT-dangerous. If a fever results, attempts should be made to lower it.

The medication of choice and standard of care for Long QT syndrome has been beta-blockers. They have shown to reduce the recurrence of fainting spells and mortality in patients with LQTS1.

Because Long QT syndrome is an inherited condition, it can exist in many individuals in a family. It is important to know if you carry the mutation. If the test shows a positive result, medical attention, advice, and treatment is available. It is simple to talk to your physician about the possibility of having this genetic mutation. Both you and the care provider should consider the risks and benefits as you determine if genetic testing is appropriate.

Some individuals are reluctant to get the genetic test for Long QT when they receive the news that they may have inherited the defective gene.  If LQTS1-causative variant mutation is identified in your family, it is essential that you and your family members get tested. It is a scary thought as a parent, not knowing you have Long QT syndrome, and that you could pass on a gene that could potentially cause your child’s death. A genetic test for Long QT syndrome is simple and available and recommended to confirm a suspected diagnosis.

You could become pregnant and have an increased risk of stillbirth. LQTS-precipitated sudden deaths continue to claim otherwise healthy infants, children, adolescents, and adults at a high rate. You would choose to be tested because LQTS can be diagnosed early, and sudden death could be prevented. Early diagnosis of LQTS have been shown to prevent symptoms and increase life expectancy. A screening EKG is recommended in childhood for first degree relatives with Long QT syndrome. Learning about the genetic fate of their children should be impetus to get genetic testing.

When I study genealogy, I see my family history coming alive. There are family secrets to uncover and mysteries to solve. Everyone desires to know their genetic ethnicity and to trace how the pieces came together. I will always wonder which one of my ancestors passed the KCNQ1 gene down to us.

Neither my mother nor my father was living at the time of the positive result for the genetic confirmation of the KCNQ1 causative mutation. Therefore, no testing was able to be completed.

It was speculated by the cardiologist that the likelihood of maternal inheritance was increased due to both a maternal grandmother and mother with a history of a stillbirth. There is data available in research studies at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN demonstrating stillbirths are higher in mothers with long QT syndrome than the fathers with long QT syndrome.

In addition, the cardiologist was able to review an EKG of my father’s, which showed a reasonable QTc interval of 350 to 390 msec. It was felt to be a reasonable calculation. It was noted at that time that the T-waves looked normal. Studies have shown that the morphology of the T wave is an additional marker for diagnosis. Based on that specific electrocardiogram and the fact that I have more than one sibling with LQTS1 mutation, it would cause him to suspect that my mother was positive. Yet the existence of Long QT on my paternal side has not been entirely ruled out.(2)

I can see that my gnarly tree saw many parents bury their baby there at St. Anthony’s Cemetery. I can imagine my tree reaching out its rambling branches as a sign of comfort to the mourning mother and father. These were my ancestors. Stillbirth is such an empty word. The term itself is defined as a baby born without any signs of life. The heartbreak must be unimaginable.

Although many stillbirths were once classified as “cord accidents”, I wonder how many parents were given that diagnosis when there was nothing else to say. Were they merely giving parents what they needed to know: “WHY did this happen?” Were adequate studies done at the time of the birth/death to truly have a feasible diagnosis?  A thorough evaluation of a stillbirth should include a fetal autopsy, histologic exam of the placenta and the umbilical cord as well as a genetic evaluation. Was such an evaluation carried out in the early1900’s or even in the 1950’s?

Current studies demonstrate that nuchal cord (cord around the infant’s neck) is not a reasonable cause for an infant’s death. Many babies are, indeed, born with a nuchal cord with no effects. The study concluded that neither a single nor a multiple cord nuchal cord increases the incidence of fetal death.(3)

In a recent international study, “Fetal LQTS Consortium. Mothers with Long QT syndrome are at increased risk for fetal death: findings from a multicenter international study”, researchers set out to determine if there is an increased risk for fetal death among mothers diagnosed with long QT syndrome. The RESULTS were stated as follows:

  • “Most offspring (80%; 118/148) were liveborn at term; 66% of offspring (73/110) had long QT syndrome. Newborn infants of mothers with long QT syndrome were delivered earlier and, when the data were controlled for gestational age, weighed less than newborn infants of long QT syndrome fathers.
  • Fetal arrhythmias were observed rarely, but stillbirths (fetal death at >20 weeks gestation) were 8 times more frequent in long QT syndrome (4% vs approximately 0.5%); miscarriages (fetal death at ≤20 weeks gestation) were 2 times that of the general population (16% vs 8%).
  • The likelihood of fetal death was significantly greater with maternal vs paternal long QT syndrome (24.4% vs 3.4%; P=.036). Only 10% of all fetal deaths underwent postmortem long QT syndrome testing; 2 of 3 cases were positive for the family long QT syndrome genotype.”(4

Furthermore, studies suggest that approximately 10% of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) may be explained by long QT syndrome. When effective treatment of Long QT syndrome is initiated, the mortality rate decreases from 50% to under 2%.(5)

Surely, genetic testing for long QT is imperative in a family with a history of a confirmed diagnosis of long QT. Pre-conception and early pregnancy counselling, along with management of pregnancy and postpartum are available for mothers with Long QT syndrome. We should remember that deaths can be prevented due to early diagnosis, necessary precautions, and treatment.

There is promising research on the horizon in the treatment of Long QT syndrome by Mayo Clinic. An article, published in Circulation, April 2021, titled “Suppression-Replacement KCNQ1 Gene Therapy for Type 1 Long QT Syndrome” discusses the fact that researchers have shown “potential therapeutic effectiveness in two in vitro model systems” that used beating heart cells reengineered from blood samples of patients with the KCNQ1 gene. Both my daughter and I are enrolled as part of the Mayo Clinic study: Genetic Modifier and Reengineered Heart Cell Study.(6)

Gene therapy is a promising approach for treatment of a variety of genetic diseases where new functional genes are created in a laboratory and then delivered to specific cells in the body as potential treatment.

No one knows where this journey in life will take us. We are but a link in the chain of family, bonding those in front of us with those behind us. We are all responsible for each other. I share this knowledge so others will know our story, learn, and save lives.

Knowledge shared = Knowledge 2

Sending blessings to you on your life journey.

Please Remember: Take care of your heart.

  1. Imboden M et al. Female predominance and transmission distortion in the long-QT syndrome. N Engl J Med 2006 Dec 28; 355:2744-51.
  2. Schwartz, P. J., Crotti, L., & Insolia, R. (2012). Long-QT syndrome: from genetics to management. Circulation. Arrhythmia and electrophysiology5(4), 868–877. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCEP.111.962019
  3. Carey JC, Rayburn WF. Nuchal cord encirclements and risk of stillbirth. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 2000;69:173 – 4.
  4. Cuneo BF, Kaizer AM, Clur SA, Swan H, Herberg U, Winbo A, Rydberg A, Haugaa K, Etheridge S, Ackerman MJ, Dagradi F, Killen SAS, Wacker-Gussmann A, Benson DW, Wilde AAM, Pan Z, Lam A, Spazzolini C, Horigome H, Schwartz PJ; Fetal LQTS Consortium. Mothers with long QT syndrome are at increased risk for fetal death: findings from a multicenter international study. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2020 Mar;222(3):263.e1-263.e11. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2019.09.004. Epub 2019 Sep 11. PMID: 31520628
  5. Simma A, Potapow A, Brandstetter S, Michel H, Melter M, Seelbach-Göbel B, Apfelbacher C, Kabesch M, Gerling S: Electrocardiographic Screening in the First Days of Life for Diagnosing Long QT Syndrome: Findings from a Birth Cohort Study in Germany. Neonatology 2020;117:756-763. doi: 10.1159/000511572
  6. Steven M. Dotzler, BA, C.S. John Kim, PhD, William A.C. Gendron, BS, Wei Zhou, MD, Dan Ye, MD, J. Martijn Bos, MD, PhD, David J. Tester, BS, Michael A. Barry, PhD, Michael J. Ackerman, MD, PhD: Suppression-Replacement KCNQ1 Gene Therapy for Type 1 Long QT Syndrome. Circulation. 2021; 143:1411 – 1425.

They Walked Here

I have not spent much time writing in recent years. I know my last blog (in 2014!) was about my search for a certain tree I identified with. I would like you to know that I did, indeed, find it way back in 2014 and now again in 2021.

On this most recent Mother’s Day of 2021, my daughter asked what I wanted for Mother’s Day. I knew immediately what I wanted. It was the most precious gift of her time. I yearned to go back to re-live some of my most vivid memories. I wanted to walk the path that my ancestors once trekked and struggled and were valiant in their efforts…. where they laughed and cried… where they felt the sun shine down upon them… where they prayed to God for strength. I am not sure why we feel that need, but I knew I wanted to feel that connection — those roots — one more time.

Take care of your heart. 

This has been my mantra for eons.

Yes, I have been around for a long time. I have succeeded in taking several successful rotations around the sun. I know and understand how important it is to take care of my heart health, both physically and mentally.

There is a head-heart connection that demonstrates that unwavering mental health can improve heart health, thereby reducing cardiovascular risks. I know I have said it before, but it bears saying again. Caring for our heart – our psychological and spiritual heart as well as our physical heart – is what makes us healthy. Yes, our heart physiologically pumps blood through our body, but it is the heart that loves, feels, and remembers.

An article “The Benefits of Thinking about our Ancestors” in the Research Digest of the British Psychological Society summarized a study of 2010:

“Normally, our ancestors managed to overcome a multitude of personal and society problems, such as severe illnesses, wars, loss of loved ones or severe economic declines,’ the researchers said. So, when we think about them, we are reminded that humans who are genetically similar to us can successfully overcome a multitude of problems and adversities.”

Enough said! We are off…

On the top of my list of viewing pleasures was, of course, MY TREE! I guess not everyone has a tree that they consider their very own personal tree.  I was drawn to this tree the first time I saw it and feel the same deep connection every time I go visit it. This tree has a uniqueness all its own. MY tree stands proudly in St. Anthony’s Cemetery in Drywood, WI, where many of my ancestors were laid to rest.

It seems to tell its own story, simply by existing, by being present in the moment.  The branches are twisted and tangled.  The trunk has been vulnerable and exposed to all of life’s struggles.  Surely, this tree has weathered many storms, obvious from its meandering branches and knotted, distorted trunk. It has a longevity factor despite the hardships it has faced.

I see the years of wear and tear have taken its toll. My tree actually did not even have many branches left but its trunk surely looked strong, although exhaustively gnarled. You can see it is working hard to produce new branches and it still has some small green leaves sprouting. Surely, I am that gnarled tree, once young and vibrant and now after being attacked by winds and storms, still standing with the love of our God, trying to still serve Him who gives me life.

Like my tree, I am not OLD, I am simply GNARLY!

Enough reflecting on trees… we are off to Grandma and Grandpa Goodman’s house! As kids we would often sing “Over the River and Through the Woods” when we traveled to our grandparent’s home. The song simply fit our excitement of making the trek “up North” to see the warmest and kindest human beings who made us feel so loved… and always had the best and the biggest 3-gallon tub of ice cream in their freezer! I wanted to make that anticipation and delight come alive again:

Hop in the Car… we are off on a road trip!

I hope you saw the Cobban Bridge as you rode with me to our grandparents home. Did the hill down to the Chippewa River on Cty HWY TT seem less steep than when we were kids?

Cobban Bridge

There was a notation in the video showing the approximate spot of Great Grandpa Frank Goodman’s Store. I do not know if that is the same building. Perhaps not. The store was located along Hwy K to the best of my memory.

In 1885, Frank Goodman bought a store in association with his brother, Mathias in Drywood. The partnership was maintained until 1896, when he acquired his brother share and maintained the store until 1904.

Great Grandparents, Frank & Anna Bohacek Goodman

You will hear some inaudible words and see some buildings as we approach Grandma and Grandpa Goodman’s house. Those structures are across the street from their home on the Chippewa River. That is where I remember the Goodman Sawmill to stand.

I would love to have a picture of the log home of Grandma and Grandpa Goodman as well as Grandpa William Goodman’s Sawmill. Perhaps someday I will find that gem. I have many treasures yet to find in the roots of my ancestors. I would love to have a picture of my maternal great-grandparents, Paul and Mary Babicky Dupey. Their life story, especially Paul Dupey’s, remains a mystery to me.

Driveway to Grandma and Grandpa Goodman’s Home at 18980 Hwy K in Cobban WI (Cornell)

(How I wished I could have gone in there! I guess I will never know if they have ice cream waiting for me now.)

Address Marker on Hwy K, Cornell WI

Maternal Grandmother

Helen Dupey Goodman

Maternal Grandfather William A. Goodman

Along the way to the house, we also passed Little Drywood School which still stands today. Many of our family members attended that school, including both Mom & Dad — Jim Straka and Eileen Goodman. I believe all of Mom’s sisters —- Vera Goodman Komro, Dorothy Goodman Krouse and Leona Goodman Ramharter went to Little Drywood School. I know for certain that Dad’s sisters — Aunt Rose and Aunt Lydia attended the school.

Little Drywood School

Our last stop is James & Emilie Straka’s farm, where they lived from 1917 to 1950. Quoting our Aunt Rose Straka Roch’s autobiography: “When I was three and she (Lydia) one and a half, our parents moved to an 80 acre farm seven miles north of Cadott, WI. The place had a log house with two rooms – a kitchen and a living room on the main floor. Upstairs was an attic where we all slept. The place was heated with a wood burning stove and illuminated with kerosene lamps.”

“There was a log barn for the cows. The land was only partially cleared and Dad and Mother worked very hard cutting trees and blasting stumps to clear the land so crops could be raised.”

It was in 1922 when Grandpa, Jim Straka built a barn. He had cows and was in the dairy business. A year later he built a home.

Jim & Emilie Straka Farm at 26115 Hwy S in Cadott WI in 1920’s

Farm at 26115 Hwy S in Cadott WI in the year 2021

Front: Emilie Kure Straka, James Otto Straka, held by James Straka Sr.

Back: Lydia Straka Loss and Rose Straka Roch

Our ancestors had busy, full lives. They walked along these roads. They worked in these fields. They made their trek to Little Drywood School. They drove over the creaky Cobban bridge and fished in the Chippewa River.

All is quiet now… but we know that they walked here. I can feel their spirit and love still.

Please remember: Take Care of Your Heart.

Just a wee posting…

Yoga Class at Sunset by the Ocean

Yoga Class at Sunset by the Ocean

Just a wee posting…

To let you know I will be on a “sabbatical” as I continue my search for that gnarly tree I hold so dear to my heart … and get “caught up” with life.

Until we meet again here at thisoldheartblog, please remember to bless the world and each and every human being, focus on your mantra and your purpose, smile broadly and leave the rest to the Lord.

Please – take care of your heart. 

 

Gnarly, not OLD!

Gnarly Roots

Looking for My Gnarly Tree

 

Kathie Lee Gifford said it.

“I am no longer old.  I’ve now become gnarly.”  I heard it one contemplative morning on the show “Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda” on NBC.

This wise declaration made me think.  Who wants to be old?  YES! I am gnarly too!

The definition of gnarly is “difficult, dangerous or challenging.”  Being gnarly is being real.

“Real doesn’t happen all at once.  You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Gnarly has always been a word that describes a tree, at least in my mind – most likely a wise oak tree with protuberances from years of wear and tear, like a knotty arthritic hand, worn and weathered and twisted from living life to the fullest.  The trees roots are anchored deep into the ground, revealing a tortuous tuberous entanglement above ground.  Only God knows the elusive entanglement below the ground.

I love the idea of being gnarly.  I love knowing that I am real and genuine. Read More

Tuesdays with Bonnie & Sharon

Tuesday Mornings with Bonnie & Sharon

Tuesday Mornings with Bonnie & Sharon

There is a whole lot of chopping going on here at thisoldheartblog!

Every Tuesday morning, Bonnie and I head on down to Sojourner House at 5 AM to make and serve a hot breakfast to the guests experiencing homelessness.

And every Tuesday morning, Bonnie, a vegan, tells me how she tried another new, delicious and healthy recipe from her latest vegan cookbook: “Oh She Glows.”

She raves about the flavors and the flawless and achievable recipes.  Her daughter, she tells me, praises the website and cookbook, “Oh She Glows” as well.  And Bonnie adds that her husband loves each and every new vegetarian delight she makes.  The concoctions sound mouth-watering but, truthfully, they sound like more work than I would be willing to employ.

But then I read about the health benefits of a vegan diet.  Studies suggest that a vegetarian diet  lowers risk for obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and even some types of cancer.  The American Heart Association tells us that the vegan diet is devoid of animal products, making it lower than a non-vegetarian diet in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.  Studies have shown this lowers your risk for coronary artery disease as well as other chronic conditions.

And then I checked out the “Oh She Glows” blog site.

“After a decade of struggling with an eating disorder and subsisting on diet, low-calorie processed foods, Angela Liddon vowed to get healthy once and for all. Done with feeling sick and tired, she threw out her fat-free butter spray and low-calorie frozen dinners. Instead, Angela embraced whole foods that made her glow from the inside out. But first, she had to learn to cook—and eat—right.

Five years ago, Angela started a blog, ohsheglows.com, to spread the word about her journey to health and the powerful transformation that food can make in our lives. Almost overnight, her energy and authenticity attracted readers eager to create their own positive life changes.”

And then I ordered the cookbook, “Oh She Glows” from Amazon.

And yes, Bonnie continues to ask me every week if I tried the cookbook.  Am I cooking vegan yet?

There is so much to learn!  And so many vegetables to chop!

My plan is to start with one thing at a time because my cupboards reveal I am nowhere near a vegan right now!  (Good-bye chicken, burgers and ham!)

Bulgur sounded like a great place to start as I read somewhere that bulgur is the secret to weight loss due to its ability to “fill you up” with few calories.  Who wouldn’t love bulgur?

Bulgur is a Middle Eastern staple because it is inexpensive, low-fat, high fiber and protein, making it a most nutritious addition to a low-calorie menu.  Bulgur is a whole grain that will block the absorption of cholesterol lowering your total and LDL cholesterol levels making it heart healthy.   It has a mildly nutty flavor and somewhat chewy texture.  If I had to compare it to something, it would be rice.

Bulgur has fewer calories and less fat and more than twice the protein of brown rice.  It can easily be substituted in your recipes when they call for rice.

I found bulgur in my usual grocery store where it came in three grains – coarse, medium and fine.  Coarse bulgur is used for stuffing, stews and casseroles, while medium grind is used in baked goods and salads, including the popular Middle Eastern tabbouleh.  The finest grind is used for breakfast and dessert recipes.

Store bulgur in a screw – top Mason jar in the fridge.  It should keep for months.

Let’s get cooking!

My first recipe was Bulgur with Ginger and Orange – a high protein salad.  I even added some extra ingredients to the recipe.  I think that is what vegans do – always add a few more veggies to the recipe.  It certainly sounded like a grand idea to me!

 

Bulgur with Ginger and Orange

Bulgur with Ginger and Orange

Bulgur with Ginger & Orange

Makes: 4 servings, 3/4 cup each

Nutrition Profile

Low calorie | Low cholesterol | Low saturated fat | Low sodium | Heart healthy | Healthy weight | High fiber |
Ingredients

2 oranges

2 teaspoons canola oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 cup bulgur, rinsed

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/3 cup slivered almonds

2/3 cup chopped scallions

1 cup chopped celery

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

Preparation

  1. Zest 1 orange; reserve the zest. Juice both oranges. If necessary, add enough water to the juice to measure 1 1/2 cups total.
  2. Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan over mediumhigh heat. Add garlic and ginger; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add bulgur and stir to coat. Add the orange juice, brown sugar and salt; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover and cook until the bulgur is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, toast almonds in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until light golden and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add scallions, soy sauce and the reserved orange zest to the bulgur; mix gently and fluff with a fork. Serve sprinkled with the almonds.

Extraordinaire!  I impressed myself.  I will have to admit that my meat-loving husband said it needed a “little something like maybe chicken or pork!”

My second recipe is from the “Oh She Glows” cookbook.

Vegetarian Tex-Mex Casserole

Vegetarian Tex-Mex Casserole

Crowd-Pleasing Tex-Mex Casserole

Tex-Mex Blend:
1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika or ½ teaspoon regular paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more as needed
1 ¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground coriander (optional)

For the Casserole:
1 ½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 orange pepper
1 red pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

Note:  I eliminated the jalapeno as I do not like HOT foods, and added a green pepper and yellow pepper.  (I love rainbows!)
1 cup corn
1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes with their juices
1 cup tomato puree or sauce
1 can black beans, rinsed
2 to 3 cups kale or spinach, chopped
3 cups brown rice OR BULGAR
½ cup vegan shredded cheese such as Daiya
2 handfuls crushed tortilla chips

1.  Make the Tex-Mex Spice Blend:  In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne, salt and coriander (if using).  Set aside.

2.  Make the casserole:  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Oil a large (4 to 5 quart) casserole dish.

3.  Rehydrate bulgur. Put 1 ½ cups bulgur in a bowl and pour 1 ½ cups boiling water over it — the ratio is slightly more than twice as much water to bulgur. Stir in a bit of salt, cover and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour, until the grains are fluffy. Drain any excess liquid.

4.  In a large wok, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, bell peppers, and jalapeno and sauté for 7 to 8 minutes.  Season with salt and black pepper.

5.  Stir in the Tex-Mex Spice Blend, corn, diced tomatoes and their juices, tomato sauce, kale/spinach, beans, rice or bulgur and ¼ cup of the began shredded cheese.  Saute for a few minutes and season with more salt and pepper, if desired.

6.  Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish and smooth out the top.  Sprinkle the crushed chips over the casserole mixture along with the remaining ¼ Cup cheese.  Cover with a lid or foil and bake for 15 minutes.

It is noted as a casserole, which it truly is, but I used it as an appetizer with Scoops Multi-grain Tostitos Tortilla Chips.  I also used it as a taco salad by putting it on a bed of spinach leaves.  It would make fantastic burritos as well.

What are my first thoughts on vegetarian cooking?  I will have to admit vegan cooking is a bit time-consuming as there really is “a whole lot of choppin’ going on” but well worth it.  The house gets a tad “aromatic” with a multitude of distinct and unique spices.  I may even need another spice rack!  The appetite is stimulated as you cook with “real food”, fresh from the Farmer’s Market with no chemicals, no frozen meals, no fake anything!  The recipes all seem to burst with color and flavor.

Vegetarian cooking is empowering.  It is positive and healthy.

Bulgur has become a new and respected ingredient as I begin my journey in vegetarian land.  I hope you join me.  I am anxious for you to try some recipes and hear your reactions.

Try it!  Take care of your heart. 

Note:  Tuesdays with Bonnie is an inspirational morning for me as much as “Tuesdays with Morrie” was for Mitch Albom.  I am certain Bonnie would agree that our mantra could easily be taken from Mitch Albom’s book:

“The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

 

Inflammation and Heart Disease

 

Inflammation

Inflammation

Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the United States in both men and women.

Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease and the number killer of Americans.

Inflammation is thought to promote the formation of fatty plaques in the arteries – atherosclerosis – causing coronary heart disease.

It is important to understand the meaning and risks of inflammation and how it affects the heart.

Inflammation is a familiar and all inclusive topic in the health community.  Inflammation is said to be a strategic instigator of chronic conditions such as heart disease, obesity, depression, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s.  Inflammation is the body’s protective mechanism and natural, biological response to remove an adverse pathogen so the healing process may begin.  There is growing evidence that chronic inflammation participates in various stages of these diseases and in some cases acts as the driving force.

Inflammation is a form of self-protection of the body by removing the harmful culprit – the damaged cells, the irritants, the bacteria or the virus.  The healing process can then begin.

Inflammation is best recognized as pain, swelling, redness, loss of function and warmth at the site of an injury or an illness.  This initial response of inflammation is known as acute inflammation – meaning it is brief, lasting only a few days.

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Happy Blogiversary!

Happy First Blogiversary!

Happy First Blogiversary!

This is the 52nd episode of thisoldheartblog.

This is the 52nd time you will read: “Take care of your heart.” 

Today “feels special” here at thisoldheartblog.

I hereby declare this my first ANNIVERSARY POST!

“Happy Blogiversary” to thisoldheartblog, as it has been one year since I began reflecting, laughing at myself, meeting new friends, letting go, remembering, connecting and touching lives in small ways.

Maya Angelou sums it up best:  “When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up and go on from darkness to darkness.”

Time has surely passed.

I like to think I have become a writing warrior. (Sounds awesome, anyway!)

I have always loved fiddling with words.  I am mesmerized by imagined worlds and dreams with description, similes and alliteration.

Writing, to me, is a form of prayer and celebration in life.  It is my way of investigating the world.  I believe it is an obsession with the senses – a connection with body and soul.  My passion with words extends to my passion with creativity and ideas.  I love looking at life’s situations from every side, lifting it up, shaking its contents and exploring every angle.

Writing has been an escape, an adventure, a support system, and a resilience.

Writing has become a friend.

Writing has given me control when I felt it was one of the most important things in life I had lost.

A blog is just simply therapeutic, if nothing else.

The act of writing words down and looking at those words every day become something that you must do.  Writing “take care of your heart” tells the writer to do exactly that.

The power of writing is vividly captured at getbusylivingblog.  

The author could not find the motivation to move forward until he wrote his goals and thoughts down:

“This is it. This is when I start to make changes to the life I want. It starts now. Stop wasting time. It’s been more than five years since you’ve wanted to find a new career. You need to start doing it today. Today. Tomorrow and every day until you reach your desired lifestyle. Life is too short to be unhappy when working. Start working hard every day to find your passion and reach your goals. Focus, focus, focus. Open your mind and allow it to attract great ideas and answers to your questions.”

He printed two copies – one for the bathroom mirror and one near his computer.  His words flashed before him every day.  Writing was powerful.  Writing helped him make the change.

Harvard Health Publications reiterates the calming benefits of writing.

“Most studies have evaluated the impact of expressive writing on people with physical health conditions such as sleep apnea, asthma, migraine headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV, and cancer. Likewise, most of the outcomes measured are physical, and the findings — such as blood pressure and heart rate — suggest that expressive writing initially may upset people but eventually helps them to relax.”

Research done at Ohio University revealed that spending too much time “sweating the small stuff” could cause chronic inflammation which contributes to heart disease, depression, diabetes and arthritis.  The “trick” they suggest to de-stress is journaling.  They recommend writing your emotions on paper, detailing your “stressful event” and then find meaning in it.  Lastly, move forward in written word.

The process of writing is its own reward.  The human connections have felt amazing!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading my postings and for your words, thoughts, feedback, support and concern.

You are all truly my “huckleberry friends.” 

I feel so blessed to have you all in my life.  You are priceless.

And for the 52nd time:

Please take care of your heart, dear friends. ♥

Happy One Year Blogiversary to thisoldheartblog!

Hmmmm… how does one celebrate a Blogiversary?!

 

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What Do You Think About When You Walk?

Chippewa River Trail

Chippewa River Trail

I was just wondering… what do you think about when you walk?  I have the most extraordinary, and sometimes the most creative thoughts when I walk.  Tell me… do you?

It seems to me that my thought process is guided by the “tune” I am listening to at the time.  I have a playlist on my iTunes that sets the pace I walk.  And it tends to set the thought pattern too.

Take my all-time favorite tune – “This Old Heart” by Rod Stewart.”  This is the theme of my “new” life (since heart disease), the title of my blog, and the personification of who I now am.  My thoughts are succinctly and poignantly captured in my very first posting “This Old Heart of Mine,”  on this blog, penned back almost a year ago.  (Can you believe it!?  I have been doing this almost a year!)

Moving down my playlist, “I come to the song “Six Pack of Summer” by Phil Vassar.  This song sets a perfect pace for me with its rhythmic beat.  It has a “feel good” sense of well-being, reminding me of my good friend and former co-worker Marilyn.   It was years ago; I “twisted her arm” and coaxed her into walking home with me after a grueling work day.

I was accustomed to walking home every night, as my daughter was a working teenager at the time… and YES, she had my car.  I must add that I “liked” being forced to walk home after a long day of work.  There were definitely nights that I could hardly do it, but I had little alternative.  It is a little over 3 miles, but much of it is along the Chippewa River on a paved walking and biking trail – picturesque and peaceful. Read More

Making Sense of Cholesterol

Delicious group of healthy vegetables isolated

Heart Healthy Eating

“Somewhere, over the rainbow,
way up tall,
There’s a land where they’ve
never heard of cholesterol”

~ Allen Sherman

 

Everybody has a junk drawer.  A junk drawer contains treasures of the heart and its contents are generally overvalued by one person in particular for some reasonable – or at least close to reasonable – explanation.  The next person would be ready to toss your treasured tidbit at immediate glance.  Little do they realize its value or the memory connected to it.

A small irregular rock that shimmers with the dusky red rudiments of a glassy luster (that was gifted from the cutest grandson ever!), a bag full of Betty Crocker box tops that students collect for education and a tattered and folded sheet of lab values from years gone by.  These treasures are interspersed with paperclips and buttons, coins and rubber bands, safety pins and old keys.

It is the tattered and folded sheet I am searching for.  I have always thought I would memorize those numbers and not need that sheet any longer.  I keep it in my junk drawer, just in case I question my memory. (And it seems I am forever “questioning my memory!”) I need to review those lab values again!  What are the normal values?  What were my numbers last time?  How am I doing?  Has my exercise been bringing those numbers down?  Is my healthy eating making a difference? Read More

Heart Disease and Profiling

 

Which person has heart disease?

Who has heart disease?

I am addicted to the suspense and escapades of the CBS Show “Criminal Minds.”

I am in awe of criminal profiling.  I marvel at how the agents perform the physical and character analysis in tracking the perpetrator, only to arrest them before they strike again.  It leaves you on the edge of your seat!  I love all the powerful characters and the drama. My all-time favorite characters are the computer geek and hacker, Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) and the genius Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Hubler) who is an expert on everything with an IQ of 187.

The BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) can form a complete profile of the offender in less than 30 minutes.  It is downright uncanny how the criminal psychologists come up with a personality profile of a criminal whose identity is unknown. Profiles, they believe fit the suspect, sound  something similar to: The “unsub” (short for unknown subject or suspect) appears to be a white male in his early twenties due to his youthful arrogance and has detailed knowledge of law enforcement techniques.  The “unsub” is believed to be a sadist, who enjoys watching people in pain.

This term “profiling” intrigues me.

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Minimally Disruptive Medicine

Effective care that fits!

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Covering local woolly needs

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Blender Guru 3D Blog

thisoldheartblog

Lessons of the Heart

KUDOS

“It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.” ~ Erma Bombeck