I Wish You a Bench

I am grateful for benches… all benches… the stone bench, the wooden bench, the upholstered bench, the stainless steel bench, outdoor garden benches, bike trail benches, and suspended benches, as in the tranquil old-fashioned porch swing.  I consider them a work of art, a place to ponder and a necessary option for the heart patient – or anyone with a chronic health condition.  They stand as a compassionate and humane tribute to both the weary and the unwell.

Life has a way of changing us.  I have acquired a tendency to be on the lookout for benches wherever I go.  I want to know approximately when and where I will meander upon the next one.  One must always be on guard for the next appropriate space to sit.  There can be a sense of urgency associated with finding a bench, as you never know when you will need one.  Medications like beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and ace inhibitors may decrease angina but can bring on light-headedness out of the clear blue.  Long-acting nitroglycerin can be the culprit for dizziness as well.  A bench is something that really comes in useful, whether you are tired, have an existing medical condition or you just want to “sit a spell” and ponder the mysteries of the world.

"Come and 'sit a spell' with me please."

“Come and ‘sit a spell’ with me please.”

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The Eucatastrophe of External Counterpulsation (EECP)

Enhanced External Counterpulsation or EECP feels like such a catastrophe – such an extreme misfortunate.  It makes me feel so imperiled and helpless.  It causes total loss of control… and then there is the “uncomfortable” squeezing and repetitive pumping sensation in the hour-long process.  The sessions are daily and consist of a series of 35 to 50 meetings.   As much as I realize that this is my hope, it feels, at least initially, like a catastrophe.  EECP is a proven alternative to coronary stents and bypass surgery promoting the development of collateral coronary arteries, used in patients who are not good candidates for surgery.  It is used in prominent clinics such as Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins and the Cleveland Clinic.

The knowledge of less angina and increased energy changes my “catastrophe” into a eucatastrophe.  Less angina and increased exercise tolerance is the “eu” – the Greek prefix meaning “good.”  It makes me realize that this catastrophe is truly a eucatastrophe.  J.R.R. Tolkien coined the term and it is how I choose to move forward.  It changes the thrust of the word.  It takes a sudden turn for the good.  I possess a strong commitment to healthy lifestyle changes which includes exercise.  Chronic pain and fatigue from angina make exercise difficult to accomplish.  EECP will allow me to gain some of that stamina and endurance back.

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Let’s Grow VERY Old Together…


Together Since 1973

Note to Self:  Look for condo in Blue Zone

There is an old and fragile scrapbook stashed between old journals and cherished novels in my bookcase that contains the essence of a single year of my family’s life on a mere 9 x 12 inch page.  I have recorded the highlights each and every year since 1973.  Memories are precious.  It has been a phenomenal task to whittle a year of living onto one page at year’s end.  There is a quote, written in the year 2007, when I was first diagnosed with heart disease and received two Cypher stents:

“Grow old with me the best is yet to be.”

I only had 12 pages left in my scrapbook at that time and thought hopelessly that it should be reasonable, if not more than needed.  This year my husband and I celebrated 40 years together.  That is why the chronicle about Blue Zone living appealed to me.  Maybe now, we can grow VERY old together and maybe the VERY best is yet to be.

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Stuff I Miss… since my diagnosis of coronary artery disease.

We all “miss our stuff”…

We always miss what we don’t have.  With heart disease, specifically coronary artery disease due to atherosclerosis, much of what you miss is the food – the high-fat and high-sodium foods!

High-fat. High-sodium French Fries

High-fat. High-sodium French Fries

I miss crispy, greasy, salty French fries.  A large order of French fries from McDonalds is usually around 5.4 ounces. The large order of McDonalds French fries has 500 calories, 220 calories from fat, 25 grams of fat, 63 grams of carbohydrates, and 6 grams of protein and 350 mg of sodium.

High-sodium Bloody Mary

High-sodium Bloody Mary

I miss high-sodium Bloody Marys. Your daily sodium intake should be less than 1500 mg a day. One bloody Mary alone (on average) contains 1,500 mg of sodium – that doesn’t even count any sodium she will get from food.

Greasy, Squeaky Cheese Curds

Greasy, Squeaky Cheese Curds

I miss squeaky, rubbery, high-fat cheese curds, especially the deep-fried ones!  Culver’s Cheese curds have 670 calories with 30 grams of total fat, 15 grams of saturated fat and 1740 mg of sodium!

But the one thing I miss most, since I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease is… Read More

To Thrive in Life You Need Four Bones

Bone QuoteIt was Reba McEntire who said: “To thrive in life you need three bones.  A wishbone.  A backbone.  And a funny bone.”

It is my experience that to live an even fuller life, or if you are a cardiac patient, you need an additional bone – a jawbone.  I am speaking about the JAWBONE UP – a simple wristband and app that promotes three key components every human being needs to incorporate into their heart-healthy lifestyle – exercising regularly, eating well and sleeping well.  The Jawbone Up claims itself to be “You at a glance.”  It serves as a record for both you and your cardiologist when he asks about your sleep, exercise or eating habits.  It keeps me healthy, happy and living life.

Graduating  with honors (well, not really, but if there were honors, I would have gotten them!) from a full-fledged Cardiac Rehabilitation program, I left to re-enter the work world with my gift of a pedometer securely tucked along my waistband.  I was given complete instructions about the need for exercise.  I would feel better and look better and live longer if I would incorporate physical activity into my life, let alone, it would reduce my risk of many chronic diseases.  I was given the AHA recommendations:

American Heart Association Recommendation for Physical Activity

  • At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 OR
  • At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75; or a combination of the two AND
  • Moderate to high intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 or more days per week for additional health benefits.

Walking is an ideal physical activity.  You can do it anywhere and anytime. Over the years, I have walked the yellow brick road, the trodden path, the local bike trail, multiple malls, hospital corridors, and sidewalks in many neighborhoods.  I trick myself into walking more through searches for geocaches, garage sales and by parking a long distance from any destination or appointment I may have scheduled during the day.  I listen to iTunes that have just the right beat to keep my feet moving forward.  I download songs that repeat such clever phrases as “just a little bit longer” that tease me onward.  I have logged into the Endomondo tracking app on my iPhone who refreshed me with reports on my mileage.  I have used the Nike iPod sensor and a heart rate monitor and numerous high – finagled pedometers.

My Jawbone UP gives me the discipline of a personal trainer.

My Jawbone UP gives me the discipline of a personal trainer and the motivation to move forward every day.

They all have delivered the inspiration and impetus to keep me moving.  But of the carrots that I use to get me walking and exercising, my JAWBONE UP is by,  far, the most motivational.  Is it my competitive nature that makes me so in awe of the Jawbone Up?  Is it the partnering relationship the Jawbone imparts that creates this heart-healthy lifestyle?  There is nothing more fulfilling than syncing my jawbone wristband with my iPhone to see how many steps I have taken and see the message of the day just for me.  If I do not meet the goal I have set, I find myself taking more steps to reach the requirement for the day. Read More

You Have Brains in your Head


Many of you may be familiar with the celebrated and irrefutable Dr. Seuss who wrote  witty limericks that are repeated world wide, but here is one you may not know as well by yours truly:

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can make choices any way you choose.
Cardiac rehab taught all you need to know.
You are the one to decide now how life will go.

You have an old heart in your chest.
You have coronary arteries.
that need angioplasty surgeries.
You have gooey cholesterol plaque.
Take care to avoid a heart attack. Read More

A Lesson of the Heart – Who Taught Me More?

dalai_lama1                       elvis

Who isn’t interested in things that deal with the HEART — be it a cardiac patient or any living, breathing human being?  After all, the heart is the core of our very being.  I recently met two very different HEART individuals — and thank the Lord — neither one had anything to do with cardiovascular disease!  Now, I cannot decide if I learned more from the Dalia Lama or from Elvis Presley.

I had the opportunity to meet the Dalia Lama (well, not personally, but rather the chance to listen to him speak.)  My expectation was that I would be fully enlightened and transformed and inspired beyond words.  He spoke on resilience through mindfulness – a wise heart-healthy practice.  I have heard many of the phrases about suffering and pain and giving and caring both in my profession and in relation to heart disease.  I know that he believes compassion is the pillar of world peace and that thought in itself, speaks to me.

The Dalia Lama is a curious, older gentleman, garbed in his burgundy and gold monk attire, with a contagious and remarkable laugh.  I expected a dynamic speaker but his English is broken and I found him difficult to understand at times.  He uses his hands to talk and always turns his head to the speaker appearing respectful and so focused on each individual.  He points and strikes a pose that reminds me of E.T. (but his finger does not glow.)  He definitely has a charisma, an aura, a “feel good” presence about him. The Dalia Lama refers to himself as a simple Buddhist monk.  He was so smiley and had a remarkable openness to all. He exudes humility. Read More


Sing along... "This old heart of mine..."

Sing along with me…
“This old heart of mine…”

Click play to listen to Rod Stewart and “This Old Heart of Mine.”

“THiS OLD HEART” is an overplayed song on my iTunes list of walking songs.  Every time I hear the distinctive melody and listen to the words of Rod Stewart, I feel he is speaking to me and all my fellow cardiac comrades who deal with many forms of cardiovascular disease.  The beat and rhythm get my feet moving at a pace that pushes me at a rate my old heart tolerates well, as it provokes many old heart thoughts that distract me as I trod along.  Yes, “This Old Heart” is “my” song.  You know the words.

This old heart of mine been hurt a thousand times
Each time you ache away I hope my fears allay.
The heaviness that comes, like pounding drums
Bringin’ back a sweating dread stressing me more and more.
Maybe it’s my mistake to hide this pain that I feel inside
But my chest is tight and it’s hard to breathe
It’s got me never knowin’ if I’m comin’ or goin’ ’cause

I feel you, yes, I do
This old heart
I feel you, yes, I do
Yes, I do, beat for me.

I try hard to hide my angina inside
This old heart of mine always keeps me sighing
The way you’re treatin’ me makes life a feat.
Yeah, nausea, fatigue and oh so weak.

But if I ache a hundred times
A hundred times I’ll still be strong.
I know this makes me who I am.
I’m not too proud to shout it, tell the world about it ’cause

I feel you.
This old heart but pains anew
And I love ya
This old heart.  I feel you.
This old heart but pains anew.

This old heart of mine been hurt a thousand times
Each time you squeeze away I think: ”Am I here to stay?”
The tightness that comes, nitros that grow
Bringin’ the pain again, hurting me more and more
Maybe it’s my mistake not calling 9-1-1
‘Cause each second that passes by
Ya got me never knowin’ if I’m comin’ or goin’ ’cause

I feel you, yes, I do.
Beat for me.
I feeeeeel  you, yes, I do
Yes, I do
I feeeeel you.

This old heart, Please don’t infarct!
Must beat for me!
I feel you-ou-ou-ou
This old heart, Don’t infarct!
Must beat for me
I feel you-ou-ou, yes, I do, yes, I-I-I-I do.
I feel you-ou-ou, yes, I do, yes, I-I-I-I do.
I feel you.

Oh, yeah, been pained a thousand times Read More

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Lessons of the Heart


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