A Fit Heart – Part 2

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  In my last post, I discussed a study that showed a fit heart was a direct indicator of a longer life. However the study did not include diet or heredity as factors in the results. The researchers simply measured the fitness of study subject’s hearts and determined that those with a fit heart lived longer that those with a less fit heart. Sometimes you just need to say "duh"!

Some of what we read today points to the importance of heredity. I agree. My father lived a life that had some risk factors for heart disease. The most significant is that he smoked for at least 30 or 40 years. I am not sure how good his diet was many years ago before we had information on the importance of dietary habits. I do know that for many years now, my mother has controlled their diet and made sure it follows pretty good dietary guidelines. Of course, like most of us, it is not perfect, but probably better than the average U.S. resident’s diet. He has always been fairly active. He has always gardened, and did take advantage of employer’s exercise programs. Since retirement, he has played golf, walked, gone to wellness and fitness centers, and watched his diet even closer than before.

At 70+ years of age, he just had multiple bypass surgery. Overall he was very healthy and strong so his recovery is going quite well. During the post-operative discussions with his doctor about the importance of rehab, exercise, and diet, I guess the question of reasons for the surgery came up. The very experienced surgeon told him that it was the result of genetics. Indeed, his father and grandfather also had heart problems and died before their time.

We all know of some athletic, diet conscious, men who have dropped dead from a heart attack. Wasn’t there a very famous runner who had this happen at a young age? Does anyone remember who that was? Then, of course, there is David Letterman, young, not overweight, and needing the same bypass surgery to save his life.

So, know as much as you can about your parents and grand parents health history. This is not always easy information to obtain. In my case, I was adopted, so my knowledge of ancestral health is somewhat limited. I do know that my maternal grandfather lived into his nineties. I think my maternal grandmother is still alive well into her nineties. She was one of 11 girls who all lived or are living into their 70’s, 80’s and nineties.

It appears that some doctors, like my father’s surgeon, now believe diet and weight are not as big a factor in heart disease as heredity. Still, even with these long lived relatives and their apparently very healthy hearts, I do my best to eat a healthy diet, and maintain a healthy weight. I do this because I believe the evidence that shows poor diet and obesity are the main risk factors for diabetes and many cancers.

I do not exercise as much or as regularly as I should. This is not from lack of knowledge or example. My wife exercises every morning, seven days a week. I know the importance of exercise and have a perfect example of how to do it right in the family. But, none of us is perfect, we just do what we can. One of the most important things to do is know the health history of previous generations of your family. Be sure to let your doctor know this history also.

 



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Will Sig
1 Jennifer Robin

I guess it all comes down to common sense, especially since the medical community can’t make up their minds. I too find diet and physical activity to be key factors in a healthy lifestyle.

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2 Bob

Better safe then sorry, I can see how heredity plays a major roll, but exercise and eating properly just make a guy feel better.

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3 Will

You’re right, of course. I just wish regular exercise was easier for me. I can hike, or play hockey with others, but I am just terrible at solitary exercise. My wife is unbelievable in that she can exercise every single morning, pretty much never missing a day. So I have a good example right in front of me, just can’t seem to do it myself. Don’t know why. Maybe that is genetics or heredity also. I bet if I had a job a mile from my house, I would walk to work and back every day.

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4 Linda Prout

Hi Will:
I hope your father is recovering after his surgery. That’s big.

The runner/fitness expert you were wondering about was Jim Fixx, who died at age 52 from a massive heart attack after a run. People don’t realize over-exercise ages us just as under-exercising.

As far as genetics goes, check out the work of Bruce Lipton (The Biology of Belief). He says our genes are controlled by our minds and that it is our beliefs that lead to disease or early demise. Our beliefs impact our genes. He has conducted many experiments to show this. I have also observed this over and over in my practice and now work with beliefs along with nutrition with my clients.

I my experience, often a “genetic” issue also turns out to be a higher need for a heart-protective or cancer-fighting nutrient or some other dietary factor. Everyone assumes when a disease “runs in the family” it is a gene coding for a disease. It can be a simple need for more magnesium or co-enzyme Q 10 or more omega-3 fat. We each have our own unique biochemistry and if you aren’t getting the right amount of a nutrient to meet YOUR needs, you can easily suffer disease. Drug companies don’t make much money figuring out the missing nutrient, unfortunately.

After seeing thousands of clients in my career, I believe attitude and nutrition have a more significant impact on health than genes, no matter what the “genetic” picture.

Unfortunately many doctors have no idea what a healthy diet is so they look at the government’s idea of healthy and when they see disease associated with the usual low-fat paradigm, they say, “See diet doesn’t help.” Of course it doesn’t help. Low-fat, low cholesterol recommendations were fabricated by politicians, not scientists.

Perhaps we need to re-consider what is healthy exercise and nutritious diet. And, take a look at what we believe.

Linda

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5 Will

Thanks Linda! The idea of the mind affecting our health is something that is difficult for many people to comprehend. Another issue is stress. For many of us, anxiety, stress, and unhappiness can literally kill. Others seem to be able to live through that with no ill effects. Maybe our genetics determines how our bodies hold up to those assaults.

Another issue is the idea of visualizing or imagining something you want to happen in your life. Many people easily accept and believe in the idea. Others, like me, have a more difficult time no matter how much we want to believe it works. Perhaps our biological makeup causes some of us to be able to accept the idea, while others need more “proof” or something?

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