Book Review: Women Fit at Fifty: A Guide for Living Long by Mary Kathryn Macklin, MSN

Mary Kathryn Macklin, MSN, is a cardiac nurse practitioner who works daily with people who are at high risk for heart disease.  Many of her patients have been inactive and sedentary for years, are overweight, short of breath, and deconditioned.  Many have been told they need to do more to stay healthy, but they don't know where to start.  Ms. Macklin wrote this book to  help women in their fifties or nearing their fifties take simple steps to remain, or to become, healthier.

Ms. Macklin starts with a chapter on mindset, excuses and procrastination.  I think that perhaps the most common limiting belief that we have is that we are "too old" to start now, that it's too late to reverse years of unhealthy habits.  In this first chapter, Ms. Macklin encourages us to think about what our excuses are, confront the fears and excuses that cause us to procrastinate taking steps to improve our health, and develop strategies for overcoming our excuses and fears.  With this chapter, she helps us set the stage for success in developing new healthy habits.  

Ms. Macklin goes on to provide an overview of the scientific research supporting the health benefits of exercise in older adults, and in the next few chapters, she talks about heart health and blood pressure, weight, diabetes, arthritis, diet, and fibromyalgia.  Throughout these chapters, she weaves the stories of patients she has worked with over the years.  

This book does not actually lay out a step by step strategy for diet or exercise, but it does provide a good foundation for understanding why diet and exercise is so important for women in midlife, and how diet and exercise impacts our overall health and wellbeing.  She helps us to understand the reasons we need to take steps to better health, and how we can get started.  She lays our excuses out in front of us, and knocks them down, one by one.  

The book is short at 120 pages and easily readable in an afternoon.  Ms. Macklin writes with the knowledgeable warmth of many years of experience caring for patients in midlife who need both a supportive, empathetic coach and a gentle kick in the butt to get started.  If you are just starting your journey toward health in midlife, or if you are struggling with excuses and procrastination, this book will ease you into believing that it is not too late for you to develop healthy habits.  

What No One Is Telling You About Skyrocketing Healthcare Costs

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As we watch our healthcare premiums go up each year, outpacing our raises; as our co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pockets rise and rise and rise; as we hear pundits and politicians shout about "affordable care" - I'm going to let you in on a dirty little secret:

No one knows how to decrease the skyrocketing cost of healthcare

And what's more, even if they did, they are not interested in lowering the cost of healthcare for you or for me.

Oh, there are tons of ideas out there.  Most of them involve layers upon layers of additional regulation, bureaucracy, and red tape.  Ideas that increase, not decrease, the cost of care.  Ideas that will build the profit margins of insurers, hospitals, healthcare systems.  Ideas that may lower the cost for employers (who are desperate to lower costs - hence, wellness programs).  

But for the average working Jane, not so much.

In the United States, our healthcare costs significantly outpace the costs (as a percentage of GDP) of other first world nations, with poorer outcomes.  While that's not necessarily an argument for single-payer, it does speak to the fact that in spite of the high cost and in spite of the calls for "value-based care," we just aren't getting what we are paying for.

The proposed panaceas of electronic medical records, Obamacare, physician and hospital ratings, wellness programs, consolidation of physician practices under healthcare systems, all have failed to move the needle on cost.  

Meanwhile, chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are growing like a proverbial cancer.

So, while we as individuals may not be able to do much about the skyrocketing cost of healthcare for our population, we can start to do something about our individual costs.  Ultimately, the only chance we have to control our own healthcare costs is to take control of our own health, especially as it intersects with the possibility of lifestyle-influenced chronic disease.  

Eighty percent of heart attacks and stroke events could be prevented with lifestyle changes

Eighty percent.  That's a huge number.  

Type II diabetes, with its potentially devastating consequences, owes much of its prevalence to lifestyle.  

Imagine how much could be saved in costs just by making the necessary lifestyle changes to prevent or decrease these chronic conditions.  Imagine the impact on health!

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Every day, I meet patients suffering the consequences of heart disease and type II diabetes. The cost for these patients is enormous (even if they are not directly paying the costs themselves, we are paying through social programs like Medicare and Medicaid).  Imagine those costs multiplied millions of times over.

It's becoming more and more clear to me that we have to take control of our own health.  It can be as simple as starting with a daily walk, simple changes in our diet to choose healthier foods, taking time to de-stress.  We have to start making the changes in our lifestyle and habits, and we have to do it now.  We can't afford not to.

You can’t afford to get sick and you can’t depend on the present health care system to keep you well. It’s up to you to protect and maintain your body’s innate capacity for health and healing by making the right choices in how you live
— Andrew Weil, MD

Can Walking Briskly 10 Minutes a Day Really Make a Difference?

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Just a few weeks ago, researchers with Public Health England urged the populace of the UK to walk briskly for ten minutes everyday. The researchers found that an intense daily ten-minute walk could reduce the risk of death, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and some cancers.

The benefits of a daily walk are well-known, but until now, most agencies have recommended walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for a total of 150 minutes a week. Previously, researchers have found that the 30 minutes could be broken up into several shorter walks a day. 

But in a world that seems to become more and more "time-crunched," many are sure to welcome the idea that they can cram their daily exercise into just 10 minutes. What's more, people who thought a 30-minute walk might be too challenging may be more motivated by only having to walk 10 minutes a day.

The researchers recommend "brisk walking," or walking faster than your normally would, at a pace that "gets your heart pumping." And they have even created an app (One You Active Tracker) to help you out (available for free on iTunes and Google Play). The app monitors your time spent walking and tells you how many minutes were "brisk." It helps you with goal setting and daily motivation.  Or you could just use your FitBit.

So, what do you think? Is ten minutes a day enough? Or are you a firm believer in thirty minutes or longer? Would just having to walk 10 minutes a day motivate you? Let me know in the comments!

"Walking 10 Minutes a Day 'adds YEARS to your life'"

A Better Way to Start Running: Run - Walk - Run to Better Stamina, Weight Loss, and Health

Photo by    Andrew Tanglao    on    Unsplash

If you want to build up to running, or marathons, then you might find interval running and walking to be a quick way to build up your stamina and endurance.  This method uses very short intervals of running and walking - run, walk, run. The intervals range from 15 seconds to 45 seconds. The method was popularized by former Olympian Jeff Galloway who claims that it decreases the potential for injury.

I have been using the Run-Walk-Run method for several months in my outdoor workouts. I have varied the interval times for running and walking, from 15 seconds each to 45 seconds each. I have found that I feel best and achieve best at a 30 second interval time for running and a 45 second interval for walking.

This method helps me in several ways. First of all, I am able to increase the distance traveled and my total steps, and I am able to accomplish that increase in the same amount of time that I previously would have just walked.

Secondly, I am increasing my heart rate without feeling winded. Since the running intervals are so short, they don't make me feel tired or out of breath, although I am feeling an increased burn in my calves, which I attribute to increased usage of the muscle. The walking immediately after the run alleviates the burn.

Best of all - I had practically forgotten I could run, after a number of years of not running! It's a wonderful feeling to know I can still do it!

This method is really useful for people who have recently begun exercising again through walking but who aren't quite getting the intensity level they want.  You can gradually increase your intensity at a pace that feels right for you.

What do you think? Have you tried using run-walk-run in your daily walks? Let me know in the comments!

Five Small Changes You Can Make Now to Turbo Charge Your Fitness Results

When it comes to fitness and weight loss, small, daily, consistent changes can lead to big results. Here are five small actions you can take now that will create huge, long-lasting results for your health.

Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

1. Consume Less Sugar

Did you know that Americans consume on average 156 pounds of sugar each year? That's the equivalent of 31 five-pound bags per person. Most of us aren't dumping it on our cereal every morning. All the obvious culprits, like sugary drinks, candy, and desserts add up. But there's lots of hidden sugar, too, often disguised in low-fat "healthy" foods. Of course, cutting out sweet drinks and juices, candy, and other sweets will eliminate a lot of sugar from your diet. But learn to read labels as well, and look for sugar under aliases such as corn syrup, glucose, and fructose - or any ingredient ending in -ose. Added calories from sugar in our diet can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and dental decay, so cutting back can have big benefits!

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2. A Walk a Day

The benefits of a brisk daily walk are many and include weight loss, decreased depression and anxiety, improved heart health, and increased longevity. If you don't have time for a long daily walk, break it up into segments throughout the day. Your body and mind will thank you.

3. Two Minute Plank

Building a strong core will help with posture, spine alignment, balance, and strength. Would you like to really boost your core strength with a simple exercise that only takes two minutes a day? Go for the two-minute plank. This exercise requires no equipment and can be done almost anywhere. Don't worry if you're not there yet. Start slowly, and build up to two minutes.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

4. Daily Salad

Remember when mom told you to eat your veggies? She was right! Green, leafy vegetables are loaded with nutrients such as fiber, vitamins C and K, carotenoids, antioxidants, and the minerals iron and calcium. Adding a daily salad to your diet using leafy greens such as arugula, spinach, leaf lettuce, kale, chard, and romaine is a fantastic and tasty way to boost your daily nutrition. Not to mention that leafy greens are filling without adding a lot of calories to your diet.

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5. 10 Minutes to Prime

Daily priming is a routine practiced by results coach Tony Robbins. Get set for a great day with 10 minutes in the morning devoted to breathing, feeling gratitude, and seeing goals accomplished. Find a quiet place, choose a comfortable sitting position, and close your eyes. Spend a couple of minutes just focusing on breathing and reaching a state of calm. Then think of three things you can feel grateful for, and really feel deep in your heart your sense of gratitude. Think of the people in your life that you love and in your mind, see them being blessed with warmth and love throughout the day. Finally, think of a goal you are working toward or a task you want to accomplish, and in your mind, see it done. Feel the sense of accomplishment of achieving your goal. Take a deep breath in, let it out, and open your eyes, ready for the day.