Sunday, March 27, 2011

BetterU Week Two: Ignorance Is Not Bliss

I’ve made it through my first week of the BetterU program. Today is the first day of week two for me, so I’ll fill you in on how week one went and what’s going on this week. For those of you who have joined, I hope you’ll post about your progress in the comments!

My week one goal was to be active for 10 to 30 minutes each day. I did it for 6 out of 7 days last week, and I think that’s a pretty good start to a BetterMe. I exercised right here in my apartment 3 of the days – pounded on my quasi-heavy bag (yes, I know this is not a normal thing to own!) and just generally bounced around for 10 or 20 minutes. I went to the gym the other three days and even did my full 9-minute run once (45 minutes on the treadmill with three 3-minute intervals of jogging). All in all, I had an active week, thanks to the motivation I got from BetterU.

Week two is all about reducing risk factors for heart disease, which begins with knowing what they are and which ones you have. I happen to be very well acquainted with my own risk factors, and I encourage you to identify and reduce yours. The main controllable risk factors are as follows:

High Blood Pressure – Smoking – High Cholesterol – Physical Inactivity – Obesity or Being Overweight – Diabetes

If you don’t know what your blood pressure is, find a drug store that has one of those chairs with the cuff. Normal is 120/80, anything within ten or twenty points either way is probably okay. If you don’t know your cholesterol, talk to your doctor about having some simple blood work done to find out. If you don’t have a general doctor, find one! In the case of heart disease factors, ignorance is most definitely not bliss.

The point this week is that there are little choices we can make every day to reduce our risk for heart disease. With that in mind, I set the following goal for week two:

While on 3 days of business travel this week, I will choose to avoid sweets and desserts.

Now, you may be thinking: Isn’t this girl diabetic? I sure am, but I cheat and squeeze sweets into my diet sometimes. On top of this tendency, travel is synonymous with unhealthy eating in my mind. For some reason, I’ve always allowed myself to indulge while traveling. On trips like this, there are always sweets and snacks lying around, begging to be eaten. There are fancy dinners, which seemingly everyone finishes off with decadent desserts. Not this girl, not this week. Wish me luck!

Stay tuned for the winners of the week one contest – I will announce two winners as soon as I figure out what the prizes are :)

Why you should sign up for the program with Go Red For Women:

The Ugly Truth: Heart disease is the #1 killer of women age 20 and over, killing approximately 1 woman every minute.

The Good News: About 80% of heart disease is preventable.

What We Can Do: 90% of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease – together we can reduce this number drastically!

How BetterU Can Help: Research shows that women who Go Red are more likely to make healthy changes in their lives.
• More than 1/3 have lost weight.
• Nearly 50% have increased their exercise.
• Six out of ten have changed their diets.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Could You Be A BetterU?

The last several days have been less than ideal for me. I went into the hospital the mornings of Thursday and Friday for iron infusions. I was nervous about side effects but really excited about the prospect of soon having more energy. It was expected that iron followed by another medicine would boost my hemoglobin and increase my energy – a very welcome change.

Thursday morning was fine. I was really nervous, but the whole visit was completely uneventful. The nurse found my vein with no problem and had the iron solution flowing within an hour of my arrival. I left feeling fine and went into work for the afternoon.

Over my nerves, I waltzed in on Friday morning thinking more about my impending business trip than any potential problems with the infusion. About 75% of the way through, I became nauseated and developed red splotches on my face. The nausea increased quickly, as did my heart rate, and the splotches made their way down my neck. The nurse stopped the iron immediately, hung a bag of Benadryl and called my cardiologist. I’ll skip the rest of the details, but after the Benadryl, a bag of nausea medicine, lots of IV fluids and an hour or two of drifting in and out of sleep, I felt a lot better. Today, I’m relieved to be feeling normal again – at least as normal as I felt before Friday.

Since we’d identified the driver of my fatigue, I allowed myself to skip out on exercise over the past week or so. It was just a convenient excuse for a break, since my anemia had been present for months. I realized this weekend there is no excuse for not being physically active. Doing some sit-ups and my wannabe push-ups is better than lying on the couch. Going for a long walk is better than standing still. It bothers me to exercise without giving 100%, but I’m trying to embrace the notion of more frequent work-outs at 50%.

With this new outlook, I joined the American Heart Association’s BetterU program today. It’s the first day of spring and I’m springing into a Better Me (hemoglobin be darned)! I signed up at and I really hope you’ll join me. BetterU is a free 12-week program designed to help ANYONE ANYWHERE decrease his or her risk of heart disease. If I can do it post-transplant and with sub-par hemoglobin levels, I’m sure you can do it too!

Sign up by March 26th (and be sure to let me know by email – and you could win a great prize from the American Heart Association! And to help maintain your commitment throughout the 12 weeks, we’ll have more contests along the way!

The program encourages goal-setting and small changes that can be sustained in the long-term. My goal for the first week is to find one block of inactivity (between 10 and 30 minutes) each day and turn it into physically active time. Even ten minutes of extra activity each week adds up to over an hour of exercise I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten!

Even if you already exercise regularly and follow a perfectly healthy diet, this program will help you become more aware of the risks and warning signs for heart disease. So even if your risk is already low, I feel sure you can learn a thing or two through the BetterU program. Please join me today!

**Note that while the program is targeted toward women, men should sign up too!**

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I Pick All Three

You know the menu option at Panera Bread called “You Pick Two”? Among a salad, sandwich and soup, you can choose two of the three. I don’t eat at Panera often, but I never stray from “You Pick Two” when I do go. Why would I want to limit myself to just one thing, when I can have two different items? Sometimes I want all three, but sadly there is no “Have It All” option on the menu.

Choosing two out of three options reminds me of something I heard as I began college in – eek! – 1999. In my senior year of high school, I decided I didn’t want to pursue collegiate soccer unlike the rest of my team – which spurs another ancient memory: “beat ‘em, bust ‘em, that’s our custom, come on Hatters, readjust ‘em”. Wow, I haven’t thought of that fine cheer in quite some time – now you can see where my superb rhyming skills were learned. But I digress.

I ended up attending preseason at the University of Richmond in order to gain admission from the waiting list. During that time, varsity athletes were the only students on campus, so they were the source of my budding collegiate wisdom. The most important morsel of truth I gleaned was this notion of choosing two out of three appealing options. It was said that of playing a varsity sport, having a vibrant social life and excelling academically, a student could select two priorities. To establish all three was a rarity. I opted for the latter two (not that I had a choice at that point – I definitely wasn’t good enough to play varsity soccer at UR).

Fast forward to today, and I once again feel forced to choose two out of three desirable options. One – continue to pursue my career at full speed; two – rebuild a social life; three – take the best possible care of my heart. I’ve struggled over the past several months to balance all three, and it’s tough. I don’t want to pick two; I want to have it all.

I think the secret to having to having it all is quality over quantity. While I will never be able to maintain a pace that allows social plans several nights each week, going out with friends every other week is certainly doable. While I cannot exercise five times a week and get the amount of sleep I need, I have been able to establish a rhythm of working out twice a week that works with my schedule. While my work is strenuous and time-consuming, I’m focusing on being more efficient and am planning to cut my commute in half over the next few months with a move to Princeton.

In college it was said maintaining all three priorities was a rarity – not an impossibility. Refer to “Beating the Odds” to see if I’m going to try.