Wicked Wednesday: Heart-Healthy Habits

It’s Edith hosting Wicked Wednesday again. We’ve been riffing on hearts all month, so let’s talk today about heart-healthy habits. Some of you know that my sister’s heart stopped without warning on Christmas night. By some miracle of modern medicine (and hundreds of people praying for her), she recovered with her brain and body intact. She went home from the hospital nine days later and is now doing cardio rehab, so you can bet I’m thinking about my own heart-healthy habits.

THree sisters
My sisters Janet and Barbara and me, two days before Barbara was released home.

AmerHeartAssnThe American Heart Association has some sensible guidelines for heart health that won’t be a surprise to most readers: exercise; eat your veggies, nuts, whole grains, and lean meats; don’t smoke; drink alcohol in moderation; and limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets, and sugar-sweetened beverages. So let’s dish, Wickeds – what’s your favorite heart-healthy habit and which do you wish you could ignore?

Liz: So glad your sister is healing, Edith. What a great topic. I try to do all the basics. I haven’t eaten meat in years, don’t drink soda, eat a lot of veggies, do different types of workouts – boxing, weights, yoga – and I do a lot of meditation, which really helps reduce stress. I also drink black Pu’er tea that I get from my Chinese healer, Dr. Wu, which is great for blood pressure and cholesterol. And though I’m trying to give up sugar altogether, I (usually) only eat sweets with organic cane sugar.

Sherry: My dog, Lily, and I take daily walks. We take a long one in the morning and a shorter one late afternoon. Since we don’t have a fenced yard we are out in all types of weather. And I’ve been working hard on not sitting for more than thirty minutes without getting up and moving around.

Jessie: I am a big believer in the mind-body connection. As more and more research has come out proving the impact of strong, meaningful relationships on longevity and overall health I have been making sure to keep my connections with friends and family a priority in my life. I feel so lucky to count the Wickeds and our readers here on the blog as part of that social connection and support!

Edith: I agree about the Wickeds and our readers, Jessie! I’m very attached to my daily power walk. I know it doesn’t get my heart rate up as much as when I used to run, but it’s something. And has the added benefit of letting me talk out loud about what my characters need to do next! Otherwise I eat pretty healthy, although I’m perhaps overly fond of sweets.  And wine. And butter…. (I’m also relieved to know that my recent echocardiogram stress test came back normal.)

Julie: Welp, heart issues run in my family, so I take medication for cholesterol. Even at my thinnest and healthiest my numbers were very high, so modern medicine to the rescue. I also walk at least 7500 steps a day (working toward 10000), try to eat well, and am working on stress reduction methods. I am also mindfully exploring the joy of life–seeing people, loving the writing, making plans that include having fun. All of that said, I am far from perfect. Far from it. Aspiring to be better, but I like red wine, desserts, red meat and butter. Carpe Diem.

Readers: What about you? Heart-healthy habits? Not-so-healthy ones it’s hard to let go of?

30 Thoughts

  1. I can exercise or I can read, but I cannot do both at once, especially as most of the ARCs are electronic (not really safe to powerwalk while reading). As I cannot afford a Kindle I read on my laptop. I DO attend four hour-long classes (enhanced fitness and Tai Qi), one half-hour (Tang So Do), and teach line dancing (one hour) almost every week, as well as attempt to eat healthily.

  2. My heart is in good shape physically, despite a few really terrible eating habits (fried catfish, y’all) that would be a betrayal of my people to give up. I am like Sherry in moving around every hour. For Christmas, my mother gave me a treadmill, which I use every day because Mom gave it to me and even though she’s many states away, she could tell if I am slacking….

    At the risk of getting sappy, I think the best exercise for your heart is to open it up and care about people and the world, and to do positive things that make you feel better about your life. Usually, that means something for someone else, even just a small line of encouragement. I believe strongly in the mind-body connection, and spreading positiveness is good for you.

  3. Always trying to find a good stress relieving habit to keep up. I have been more aware of late of sodium in so many places and have been reducing that with some success.

  4. Good topic, Edith. I watch my diet, with varying degrees of success – I very seldom eat meat and avoid most sweets (chocolate Is clearly weakness!) While I don’t have the formal exercise regimen I should – I do a good amount of running around after active toddlers every week. I hope that counts for something. Also, because I believe stress is a great danger to our health in many ways, I have begun meditating, which is s nice addition to my life. Finally, there is an interesting article in the Washington Post about the positive role of gratitude in recovering from a heart attack. I’m sure your sister was grateful for many things in the aftermath of her scary experience, Edith, including gratitude for her two sisters!

  5. Living a health daily regimen is obviously hard. Time is the difficult thing for most people. Thank goodness Nana had the garden and taught us to eat healthier than we probably would have. But the exercise time and the sleep patterns are difficult for most people. Hats off to you, Edith, for reminding us. I hope your sister is doing well and continues to do so.

  6. My doctor thinks I’m reasonably healthy (as of my most recent checkup this past week), but I wish I could walk more. For years I commuted by train into one or another city, and I had the opportunity to walk to the station, walk to work at the other end, and return. It was great having that exercise built into each day. When I travel, I love to walk through new places and just enjoy the scene (or the scenery). Currently I have no reason to walk anywhere (oh, how I admire you, Edith, to be able to think and walk at the same time!). Since we should be downsizing soon, I’ll have to choose my location with walking in mind.

    1. That’s what we did, Sheila. I walk everywhere in my town – to the PO, CVS, to church, even to the grocery store along the rail trail! And, of course, to pubs and restaurants downtown.

  7. Edith, I’m so glad your sister is doing better. How scary for your family.

    My husband has hereditary cholesterol and blood pressure issues, plus early blood sugar indicators for diabetes. I’ve always cooked in healthier ways (most of the time), and we both try to watch the extra calories, etc. He exercises regularly, but I’ve kind of fallen off that wagon in the last two years, and need to get back to it.

    One thing I’ve done for three decades now, and which I credit for my extremely good cholesterol numbers, is to have a square (or two) of dark chocolate, 70% or higher, every morning. I could give up almost everything else, but not my chocolate, as long as it’s a very high quality, high cacao count version.

  8. With medical problems it’s sometimes very hard to get the exercise that I know I need and would love to do. I do what I can on the good days. My best thing is refusing to give up – to stay as active as I can while I can.

    I’ve always had a weigh problem. Do think it’s heredity whether through genes or habits acquired. Either way being less mobile makes it even harder. I try to limit the bad foods to more of a special treat. I also know salt isn’t good for you but it’s the one thing I have the hardest time limiting.

  9. I make sure to do at least 1/2 an hour of exercise every day or at least six days a week. 5-7 times a week I do 50 minute dance classes at my gym, followed by ten minutes of sit-ups. I used to do a 20 minute weight routine, but I’m in PT right now for tendonitis. I live in a hilly neighborhood and have some moms who’ve become walking buddies, so we’ll often do a 1/2 power walk at night. Also, mystery author Nancy Cole Silverman is in my neighborhood and we now do regular Tuesday morning walks where talk story and life.

    Even with all this, I’m on meds for high blood pressure, cholesterol, osteoporosis, and hypo-thyroid. I inherited the worst of both my parents’ genes – and threw in the thyroid thing all on my own! But the great thing is, exercise feels habitual to me now. If I miss more than a day, I feel out of whack.

    1. I feel that way, too, Ellen, when I miss. I somehow bruised the top of one foot and it kills to wear my tennies – grrr. Am contemplating joining a pool! Glad you’re getting so much fitness in.

  10. I eat pretty well – cut out a lot of sugar and I’m not an excessive sweet person to start with (although right now I am enjoying one truffle a night). I do have a weakness for salty – chips of any kind (potato, tortilla, etc.) that I’m working on. I don’t eat a lot of red meat, but I do enjoy a good steak.

    I really need to work on exercise. We just bought a three-month family membership to a gym/pool so as soon as this major burn on my arm is sufficiently healed, I’ll start going up a couple times a week with my son and swim while he does his weights.

  11. Years ago I had high triglycerides. I good cholesterol was high so I was okay, but I made a conscious effort to eat more whole grains and less refined sugar. I look for whole grain everything anymore, and only indulge in sweets once in a while. I am trying to exercise more regularly, too, besides walking the dog, which doesn’t even get my heart rate going. I’m in the process of trying to find something I can do that I know I will stick with. With me luck!

  12. Glad your sister is doing so well, Edith. I’m with Kay – it’s hard to exercise with a bum foot and bum knee. I’m working at getting them back to fully functional because I really miss long walks. And, like Jessie, I think our minds have a lot to do with our health. I have learned to relax and be tolerant of most things. I keep an open, positive mind about the world in general and it makes for a much more pleasant existence. My doctor is please, too.

  13. I am much to fond of sweets. If I could cut those out of my life, I’d actually lose weight from the running I do. But they taste so good!

  14. I’m a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, maintaining goal weight, and still go to the meetings every Tuesday morning. The program is so good and easy to follow that my weight doesn’t vary more than a pound one way or another even on vacation. I know I don’t exercise enough though. Doctor says all is well with heart, lungs, choleresterol, etc. Only problem is arthritis in my hands and occasional back pain — but if that’s all I have to complain about in my “golden years”I’m
    truly blessed!

  15. After several friends shared their pleasure in getting CSA (community supported agriculture) share, I found Terripin Farms, just by chance. Besides 20 weeks of fresh from the field organic produce, I have farm friends who instruct, encourage, and share joy and wisdom. My doctors approve <3

    1. I ran an early CSA from my organic farm in the nineties – and yes, I gave out recipes for how to use some of the unusual produce I offered. Very healthy, Mary!

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