A Time & A Perfect Season For Change

 

Autumn is a time of natural transformation.  It is a season of change where the leaves on the trees change their colors from warm green to fiery red and vibrant orange, then float away slowly to the ground. Like the leaves, we are in a season of transformation where we can find the courage to change our colors as well.

 

 

 

 

There often come times in our lives (for seasons do change), when we just know deep in our hearts, that is it time for a change. That change may be big or small, related to career,  relationship or place of residence. Or perhaps, when we are quiet, we hear the subtle calls for small but transformative changes in our attitudes and behaviors. Or maybe you just have the feeling that you are not living your life authentically.

For me, this season of transformation is a time of major change. After a long career in medicine as an interventional cardiologist, it is time for a change. Time to retire my stethoscope and discover what else this life has in store for me.

In many ways, this has not been an easy decision. But I have no doubt that it is the right decision. In Yoga, we talk about Dharma. Dharma is our Purpose… Our calling to be of service but more importantly to be authentic and true to our selves. When we are on this path, we find true Joy. This purpose can change with the seasons as well. My Dharma has been to serve others in the practice of medicine. I have been blessed with wisdom and intelligence and put on this particular path of service, and I pray I served it well. Being a physician is a profession that I have been privileged and deeply honored to be a part of.  I believe that I’ve done it well, saving many lives, touching many lives and being touched by even more. As a healer, however, I know that there are many ways to heal and that I can still be of service.

I have spent my entire life following my mind, my thoughts and ideas, of how my life should be, which led me to this life of practicing medicine, specifically cardiology, the science of the heart.

But now, for probably the first time in my life, it is time to follow my heart and not my mind.

I have always envied those people who lived by the mantra/motto…

Do what you love… Love what you do. For these fortunate people, work is not work but joyful Dharma.

Where the road leads, I do not exactly know, but I go there with Faith and Excitement. I do know that my new Dharma is driven by my passion for the healing powers of Yoga. I hope to use all the wisdom I have obtained through the years, practicing Cardiology and Yoga, to continue to be a healing Source for others.

A friend (Anna) referred to this change in career as Chapter 2. We all have many chapters in our book of Life.  Sometimes, when the days get shorter, and the wind blows a cool breeze, we find the courage to shed our leaves and go with the flow of life.

Please follow along as I take this journey as I will most certainly be writing regularly about my lessons and adventures.

Namaste

Dr Millie Lee

International Yoga Day and Summer Solstice

It is no coincidence that the International Yoga Day falls on the same day as the Summer Solstice. June 21, 2017 is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, when the sun appears to stand still, a perfect opportunity to find “stillness” in our lives through the practice of Yoga.

The Sun is a powerful symbol of Light, of Energy and of Consciousness. Yoga is the practice of connecting with the Light, the Energy, and the Consciousness within us, as when we practice Sun Salutations.

Recognizing it’s appeal and health benefits, the United Nations proclaimed this day of Yoga to increase awareness of yoga’s benefits for healthy body, mind and spirit.

“Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. This tradition is 5000 years old. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well being . Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.”

— Narendra Modi, UN General Assembly
Yoga continues to grow in popularity. It is now practiced by over 36 million Americans (up from 20 million four years ago). Of those Americans who don’t practice yoga, 34% of them say they would like to try yoga for the first time over the next 12 months. 
Yoga and the Sun (despite it hiding for many of us today) will be celebrated in iconic locations throughout the word.
Prime Minister  will participate and lead over 50,000 participants (10,000 more than last year) in a  practice in India

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi participates in the mass yoga demonstration at Rajpath on the occasion of International Yoga Day, in New Delhi on June 21, 2015.
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi participates in the mass yoga demonstration at Rajpath on the occasion of International Yoga Day, in New Delhi on June 21, 2015.

In Times Square, in Celebration of the Summer Solstice, The 15th annual “Mind Over Madness Yoga” event takes place all day. There are different free yoga classes for people with all different skill levels

times square solstice

 

Here on the beautiful beaches of the Chesapeake Bay in Norfolk,  the donation based Bhav Brigade will have a pop-up Yoga class for the community. http://www.bhavbrigade.org

 

 

sun salutation

How will you celebrate Yoga Day? Maybe, you’ve never done yoga before and are curious – well, there are numerous studios and athletic stores such as Lululemon, around the country offering free classes.

Whatever this day brings for you, live it mindfully and breathe. This is Yoga.

Namaste

Millie

Heart Healthy Diet. Navigating through all the confusing diets & plans

What is a heart healthy diet?  Is it high protein? low fat? high carb? low carb? no carb? gluten free?  Is it Vegetarian? Vegan? Mediterranean? Ornish? Paleo? What if you have Diabetes? What if you’re trying to lose weight?

 

To add to the confusion, here are a few more terms we hear all the time and see all the time at the grocery store — sugar free,  whole grains vs enriched grains vs refined grains, good carb, bad carb, saturated fats, trans fats, good fats, bad fats. Yikes…Is your head spinning yet?!

No wonder eating healthy can seem so daunting!

I will do my best to debunk some of the myths and focus on foods that are in general healthy,  and especially heart healthy.

                   The American Heart Association recommends the following for all adults and children greater than 2 as well as for patients with known heart disease:

  • Eat 5 or more servings of fruit & vegetables every day. Dark green, deep orange or yellow fruit and vegetables are especially nutritious. Examples include spinach, carrots, peaches and berries
  • Eat 3 or more whole grain foods every day. Examples include oats, barley, brown rice, 100% whole wheat
  • Eat fish at least twice a week. Oily fish which contain Omega 3 fatty acids are most nutritious, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines and to a lesser extent tuna
  • Eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol

Sound a little carb heavy? What if you have Diabetes or are trying to lose weight…Should you eat less carbs? First lets take a look at Carbohydrates and Grains as they are often demonized in many popular diet fads.

Let me be clear. Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet!

A carbohydrate is a macronutrient, meaning they are one of the three main ways the body gets energy to support bodily functions and physical activity; the other two being proteins and fats.

The term carbohydrate refers to its chemical structure, consisting of a certain ratio of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms.

Carbohydrates in food come in the form of sugars, starches and fiber.  Carbs are often classified as either simple carbs or complex carbs. A simple carb, again refers to its chemical structure, and how quickly the sugar is absorbed and digested. Simple carbs have one or two sugars and are absorbed and digested quickly. Examples are fructose found in fruit, sucrose-table sugar, and lactose – milk. Simple carbs are also in candy, soda and syrups (obviously, not good).  Complex carbs are the starches and fiber, such as whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, potatoes, corn, parsnips.

A better distinction is between good carbs and bad carbs.

Carbs usually considered good are mostly complex carbs, such as whole grains, vegetables, beans and legumes and fruit (which are simple carbs). These are not only digested more slowly, but they also contain many other nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. They also tend to be high in fiber. There are many studies reporting the health benefits (not just heart) of a diet rich in fiber.

Bad carbs — Think pastries, sodas, highly processed foods, white rice, white bread and other white-flour foods. Bad carbs rarely have any nutritional value. An important definition here is “refined” as in refined flour or refined sugar. While the word “refined” may bring to mind “improved, pure, elegant”, WHERE FOODS ARE CONCERNED, REFINED=BAD. REFINED=PROCESSED. All the goodness (nutrients, fiber) is stripped out of the food.

What about fat? Is there any nutritional role for fat in our diets, especially our heart healthy diets.

Yes! Fats are ESSENTIAL! But, wait, don’t get too excited. I am not suggesting that eating a bacon cheeseburger is Essential or Healthy. As with carbs, there are good fats and bad fats.

Let’s start with the good guys — the unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats include polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fatty acids (found in olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, nuts, and avocados) and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in oily fish, canola oil, flaxseed, and walnuts) should be the first choice for fats.Unsaturated fats, when eaten in moderation and used to replace saturated or trans fats, can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of  heart disease.

Now on to the bad guys. There are two types of fat that should be eaten sparingly: saturated and trans fatty acids. Both can raise cholesterol levels, clog arteries, and increase the risk for heart disease.

Saturated fats are found in animal products (meat, poultry skin, high-fat dairy, and eggs) and in vegetable fats that are liquid at room temperature, such as coconut and palm oils. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting saturated fats to 10% or less of your total calories, while the American Heart Association recommends keeping them to just 7% of total calories.

The real BAD GUY is the artificial trans fats. They’re used extensively in frying, baked goods, cookies, icings, crackers, packaged snack foods, microwave popcorn, and some margarines. Research has shown that even small amounts of artificial trans fats can increase the risk for heart disease by increasing LDL “bad” cholesterol and decreasing HDL “good” cholesterol. Stay away from these as much as possible.

PROTEINS. I probably don’t have to convince the average reader to eat protein. And yes, it is also an important Macronutrient. What I’d like you to think about, however, is the type of protein you consume. Protein is found in animal-based products (meat, poultry, fish, and dairy) as well as vegetable sources such as beans, soy, nuts, whole grains and to a lesser extent green vegetables. Animal protein, unfortunately, also comes with significant saturated fats. The best choices of protein are fish, legumes (beans), nuts and if you must have meat, lean poultry.

Here are a few examples of “Diet Plans” that I would consider Heart Healthy

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is rich in heart-healthy fiber and nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. The diet consists of fruits, vegetables, and unsaturated “good” fats, particularly virgin olive oil. Olive oil has been associated with lower blood pressure, a lower risk for heart disease, and possible benefits for people with type 2 diabetes. There are several variations to the Mediterranean diet, but general recommendations include:

  • Limit red meats.
  • Drink one or two glasses of wine each day if alcohol is enjoyable and there are no reasons to restrict its use.
  • Limit whole fat dairy products.
  • Eat moderate amounts of fish and poultry. Fish is the diet’s main protein source.
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, beans, and whole grains.

DASH Diet

The salt-restrictive DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is proven to help lower blood pressure, and may have additional benefits for preventing heart disease, stroke, and heart failure. Effects on blood pressure are sometimes seen within a few weeks. This diet is rich in important nutrients and fiber. It also provides far more potassium (4,700 mg/day), calcium (1,250 mg/day), and magnesium (500 mg/day) — but much less sodium — than the average American diet.

DASH diet recommendations:

  • Limit sodium (salt) intake to no more than 2,300 mg a day (a maximum intake of 1,500 mg a day is a much better goal and is now endorsed by the American Heart Association).
  • When choosing fats, select monounsaturated oils, such as olive or canola oils.
  • Choose whole grains over white flour or pasta products.
  • Choose fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Many of these foods are rich in potassium, fiber, or both, which may help lower blood pressure.
  • Include nuts, seeds, or legumes (dried beans or peas) daily.
  • Choose modest amounts of protein (no more than 18% of total daily calories). Fish, skinless poultry, and soy products are the best protein sources.
  • Other daily nutrient goals in the DASH diet include limiting carbohydrates to 55% of daily calories and dietary cholesterol to 150 mg. Patients should try to get at least 30 g of daily fiber.

Low-Fat Diets

Dietary guidelines recommend keeping total fat intake to 20 – 30% of total daily calories, with saturated fat less than 10% of calories. Very low-fat diets generally restrict fat intake to 20% or less of total daily calories. The Ornish program, recommended for some heart disease patients, limits fats even more drastically. It aims to reduce saturated fats as much as possible, restricting total fat to 10%, and increasing carbohydrates to 75% of calories. While this program has been scientifically shown to result in  Regression of heart disease, it is a very demanding regimen that is difficult to maintain.

  • It excludes all oils and animal products except nonfat yogurt, nonfat milk, and egg whites.
  • It emphasizes whole grains, legumes, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • People in the program exercise for 90 minutes at least three times a week.
  • Stress reduction techniques are used.
  • People do not smoke or drink more than two ounces of alcohol per day.

 

Not so Heart Healthy

Low Carbohydrate Diets

Low carbohydrate diets generally restrict the amount of carbohydrates but do not restrict protein sources, which for many, results in greater meat and saturated fat consumption.

The Atkins diet restricts complex carbohydrates in vegetables and, particularly, fruits that are known to protect against heart disease. The Atkins diet also can cause excessive calcium excretion in urine, which increases the risk for kidney stones and osteoporosis.

The jury is still out on other low-carb diets, such as South Beach, The Zone, and Sugar Busters, and the Paleo diet. Low-carbohydrate diets help with weight loss in the short term, possibly better than diets that allow normal amounts of carbohydrates and restrict fats. However, overall, there is not good evidence showing long-term efficacy for these diets. Likewise, long-term safety and other possible health effects are still a concern, especially since these diets restrict healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables, and grains while not restricting saturated fats.

Take home message . The heart healthiest foods are:

  • Fruit and Vegetables (all of them),
  • “whole” grains such as oats, barley, quinoa, brown rice. If it’s white, don’t eat it!
  • Fish
  • Legumes (beans, peas) and nuts
  • Foods rich in fiber
  • Good fats, such as olive oil and avocado
  • Eat the other stuff sparingly

 

And remember, what we eat is 50% of our health; the other 50% is physical activity.

By Dr Millie Lee

 

Heart Disease – Signs and Symptoms

We continue this month, Heart Month, to learn more about the heart and heart disease.

So how do you know if you or a loved one have heart disease? First of all, what is heart disease? Before we discuss what can go wrong, Let’s begin with a short lesson on the anatomy and function of a normal heart.

Human Heart Anatomy

The heart is a small, beautiful and powerful organ. It is about the size of a large fist and weighs between 10-20 ounces in mean and 8-10 ounces in women.

Heart Function and what can go wrong 

We cardiologists often liken the heart to a house with its structure, plumbing and electricity. The heart is a hard working muscular pump responsible for delivering oxygenated blood to all the bodies tissues and organs, including itself (via the coronary arteries). If the pump (structure) fails to work efficiently, heart failure can result. If the arteries get clogged or blocked (plumbing), Coronary Artery Disease is the result. Irregular heartbeat or arrhythmias is the result of an electrical problem.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

CAD is what most people think of when they hear the term heart disease and it IS the most common form of heart disease and the leading cause of death in our country. Basically, it is the build-up of plaque in the heart (coronary) arteries which lead to symptoms of ANGINA or HEART ATTACK (myocardial infarction).

Angina occurs when the heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen rich blood. It generally occurs when the demand on the heart is increased such as with exercise or exertion and resolves with rest (decreased demand). A heart attack is similar pain that persists. It can often be preceded by angina, but not always.

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF CAD

  • Chest pain with or without exertion; dull, pressure, sharp or burning like indigestion
  • Pain in Arms, Neck, Jaw, Back or Abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Extreme Fatigue
  • Sudden, unexplained sweatiness

Heart Failure

This is a condition in which the heart does not pump normally, either from a weakened pump or a restricted heart muscle. The condition of a weakened heart muscle is referred to as a Cardiomyopathy. When the heart is not able to pump efficiently, blood can back up into the lungs and peripheral veins. As the pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs increase, fluid is pushed into the air spaces, leading to congestion in the lungs, or pulmonary edema. Similarly, fluid can be pushed out of the peripheral veins, leading to swelling or EDEMA of the legs, arms, or abdomen.

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF HEART FAILURE

  • Shortness of Breath with or without activity
  • Shortness of Breath when laying down
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling, in legs, arms, and abdomen

Arrhythmias

An arrhythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm, such as Atrial Fibrillation.

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF ARRHYTHMIAS

  • Palpitations
  • Dizziness, Lightheadedness, Loss of Consciousness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of Breath

If you or a loved one have any of the symptoms I’ve discussed here, please see a doctor as soon as possible. I recommend seeing a general doctor first and see if referral to a specialist or further testing is required.

By Dr. Millie Lee

Heart Health Awareness Month

February is Heart Awareness Month – A time when many of us connect with our hearts. This connection is primarily because of the holiday, Valentine’s Day. But along with Valentine’s Day, February also marks American Heart Month, a great time to commit to a healthy lifestyle and make small changes that can lead to a lifetime of heart health. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death of men and women, despite the tremendous advances we have made in the treatment of heart disease. So, maybe the solution for heart health is prevention. Make heart health the perfect gift you give to yourself and your loved ones this Valentine’s Day.

This month, follow along as we discuss various aspects of heart health, including risk factors, prevention, screening, heart healthy diet and stress management.

Let’s start by asking ourselves: Am I at risk for heart disease?

Common risk factors for heart disease

  • Hypertension or High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes Mellitus or High Blood Glucose
  • Hypercholesterolemia or High Cholesterol
  • Smoking Cigarettes
  • Stress
  • Age
  • Family History of Premature Heart Disease

The good news is that most of these are preventable, modifiable and treatable with attention to the right foods and regular exercise. Sorry.. can’t do anything about your age or family.

So, let’s get Heart Smart this month and beat heart disease. February 3th is National Wear Red Day to raise national awareness of heart disease. Why not wear red everyday this month to maintain awareness to our heart health.

First tip: WALK. Log those steps. Every step you take is a part of your journey to heart health. Walking briskly can reduce your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Rx: 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity (brisk walking) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity physical activity (such as jogging or running) or a combination of both.  Keep me posted on your progress and send pictures of your activities wearing red!

 

Dr Lee signing off…..

 

Inspiring Millenials

It is not often that a Gen Xer  finds inspiration in the younger Millenials. But I had the great pleasure and honor of spending some time this past Sunday with two amazing Millenials – Jessica and Jess, clearly no coincidence. In Hebrew, the name Jessica means: Rich, God Beholds. We came together for a vinyasa yoga class taught by Jessica at the lovely Mermaid Winery in Norfolk, VA.

There is a lot of controversy about the characteristics of a Millenial. Some call it the “Me” Generation and describe them as being lazy and entitled. The first author, however, to coin the term, described them as confident, civic minded achievers. Now this perfectly describes these two beautiful ladies, Jessica and Jess.


Jessica is a beautiful, smart, kind, inspirational young woman who is a yoga teacher, medical student, co-founder of Bhav Brigade, and wise beyond her years. She will graduate medical school in a few months and clearly be one of the most compassionate Emergency physicians I and the world will know. She spent her “free time” as a medical student bringing yoga to the medical school and the community through the Bhav Brigade, a pop-up yoga collective based on donations that go back to the community.

Jess is a beautiful, smart, kind, inspirational, motivational young woman who is a trail blazer, entrepreneur, fitness guru, social media whizz and wonderful friend. She left a well established job to follow her heart. Her heart has led her to be a leader in her “industries”-health & fitness and social media. She is the creator of The Fit Petite and Relay Your Brand. Whatever she does, her heart is always with the community. She is the most motivational person I know. She organized and participated in a huge fundraiser run from Virginia Beach to the White House to raise money for the homeless.

Needless to say, sharing space and time with these women was truly inspirational.

The theme for the class was balance. Not balancing on one toe with the other leg wrapped around your head balance… but balance in our lives. What does that mean to you? Jessica suggested we debunk it … and not give it so much power over our lives. It seems that “balanced” has made its way to the list of things we need to accomplish. Instead, balance should be acceptance of the good and the bad days, our goodness and our imperfections. To prove how challenging that can be, we “practiced” balance on our mats.

Topping off a great, challenging yoga class in a winery, what better for a balanced day, than brunch and mimosas in the winery with Jess. We are both so excited about this new year. Not because 2016 was bad but because we share a common optimism about the future and how we can mold it. I was excited to hear how Jess will guide a women’s workshop on “Never Surrender – Your Roots, Rules and Resolutions.”

So I resolve, and invite you to see everyone we meet, regardless of age, with an open heart and without preconceived judgement. I am grateful to these beautiful souls for their light and their inspiration.

Who inspires you?

Namaste

Millie

 

Stay Healthy during Cold and Flu Season

Are you ready for 

cold and flu season?

 

Ugh!I can’t believe I got sick. I never get sick and as a doctor I am exposed to sick people all the time. I have attributed this to my generally healthy lifestyle. So… maybe, I haven’t been as good as I should be, not getting enough sleep, not drinking my green smoothies everyday. But, luckily, with my healthy habits, I was able to get better quickly and get back on track to stay healthy.

What causes the common cold and flu this time of year?  Contrary to grandma’s loving advice, you do not catch a cold by going outside without a hat. LOL. In fact, while the exact mechanism behind the seasonal nature of influenza is not well known, it is proposed that being indoors more, being in close contact with others that results in direct person to person transmission. Other proposed mechanisms:

  • The cold temperatures allow the virus to decompose slower and linger on external surfaces like door knobs, keyboards and counter tops
  • The cold temperatures are associated with drier air, which may dehydrate mucous membranes, leading to decreased defense against respiratory infections.

Here are the most common symptoms for the flu. The common cold, caused by a different virus, shares these symptoms, generally with less severity.

How do you deal with symptoms if and when they arise?  

Here are some of my favorite, natural, drug free tips to beat the bug and stay healthy this season

Sip Tea. I like to drink hot green tea with lemon and honey. Drinking the tea and breathing in steam stimulates the cilia — the hair follicles in the nose — to move out germs more efficiently. Lemon thins mucus, and honey is antibacterial

Drink Water. Lots of it! Water flushes out toxins through the lymphatic system.

Go Green. Green juices or green smoothies are chockful of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants and delicious. Remember, the darker the greens, the higher the nutrient count. My go-to green smoothie, is kale, spinach, cucumbers, mango, berries and banana.

Eat healthy foods. Remember you are what you eat. So, eating healthy foods, should make you, uh, Healthy. We’re not just talking fruits and vegetables here, superfoods from all major food groups that can improve your immunity. Fish, oysters, mushrooms, garlic, probiotic foods, carrots, sweet potatoes and don’t forget Dark Chocolate.

Vitamin C. If you’re sick, you should consume 400-500 mg. This is hard to do with food alone, so I take a pure supplement.

Sanitize shared surfaces at home, at work and at the gym. Wipe everything down!! Viruses can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours!

Pamper your nose. 

NETI, developed thousands of years ago by yoga and Ayurveda practitioners in India, is a nasal purification technique, that involves the use of Neti pots.

The pot is filled with a saline solution (specially packaged salt mixtures can be purchased, but non-iodized salt (not sea salt) and water will do just fine. Once the neti pot is filled, its spout is inserted into one nostril while the user tilts the head to the side to allow the saline solution to flow up the nasal passage and then out the other nostril. Then the technique is repeated on the opposite side.

Neti pots do the following:

  • Clear the nostrils to allow free breathing
  • Remove excess mucous
  • Reduce pollen or allergens in nasal passages
  • Relieve nasal dryness
  • Reduce cold and flu symptoms
  • Alleviate sinus headaches
  • Improve sense of smell and taste
  • Reduce snoring

Pamper Your Body. Massage Therapy – I like to get a massage once a month to improve circulation which nourishes the cells with oxygen and nutrients. Also, massage reduces stress which means… Less stress… less of a germ magnet.

Good night. Research shows that our bodies need 7 to 8 hours of sleep to stimulate an immune response from our natural killer cells against viruses. Sweet and Healthy Dreams! 

 

Namaste

 

 

Hit Your Health Goals for 2017

We all have them. What are your health goals for 2017? How will you accomplish them?

 

The first day of the first month of a new year invites us to set goals for the new year. Everyone wants good health, right? So, most people wish for health in the New Year. But we must do more than wish. Our health, our lives, are in our own hands. Let 2017 be the year of accountability. Take control of your health.

Starting point.  The first step in the process is to evaluate your current situation regarding your health and then ask yourself what you really want to achieve.

You can define your starting point by asking yourself:

  • What are your current health statistics – height, weight, Body Mass Index, blood pressure, cholesterol level, blood glucose, etc – how do these compare with normal measurements?
  • Do you exercise? How often and for how long?
  • Do you get enough sleep? Do you feel tired or do you have lots of energy?
  • What is your fitness level?
  • Do you have any bad eating habits – are you addicted to a particular food or type of food? Are you an ‘emotional’ eater? Do you eat enough?
  • Do you have any ailments that affect your health and wellbeing? Do you always seem to be run-down or picking up the latest cold or flu in town?
  • Do you often feel stressed?
  • Do you have any other bad habits that affect your well being – smoking? Alcoholism? Drugs?

Set goals. Set SMART goals. Simply saying that you want to lose weight, eat healthy, or stop smoking will likely result in failure.

SMART:
Specific
      Measurable
       Accountable
Realistic
    Timeframe

Set a specific goal.A goal needs to be as specific as possible so you can work toward it and achieve it. “Lose weight”  or “Be Healthy” as a goal is too vague. What exactly do you want to achieve and how? Why do you want to do it? Do you want to feel better, have more energy, be happier, live longer?

Make goals measurable. If you don’ make your goal measurable, you don’t know when you’ve reached it. How much weight do you want to lose? What do you want your blood pressure to be? What about your cholesterol levels? How often should you exercise? Track your progress, write it down and celebrate the small successes along the way.

Be accountable. Keep a journal. Track your progress — your weight, your workouts, your food intake, how many cigarettes or drinks you had, your stress levels. There are many health apps out there that can be very helpful. Share your goals with a friend who can help keep you on track.

Set a realistic goal. Make it challenging yet not too overwhelming. Make it realistic for you based on your life, your schedule, your other commitments.

Set a timeframe. Timeframes should also be realistic. Don’t expect to lose 20 pounds in one month. Don’t expect to quit smoking cold turkey (although possible).

  • Allow yourself 1 week per kg (2 lbs) of weight you want to lose.
  • Allow yourself 3 months to get in to peak physical fitness.
  • Allow yourself at least 6 weeks to quit a habit like smoking, and maybe even longer for alcohol and drug dependency.

It may take up to 12 months to start ‘feeling’ healthy and energetic or overcome some other particular health ailments, again depending on your starting point. So hang in there! It is worth it.

Key to whatever your health goal is…eat mostly fruits and vegetables, get plenty of sleep (7-8 hours a night), exercise regularly and most importantly have compassion for yourself. Our goals are long-term and our good intentions are how we approach them everyday. Acknowledge that there will be days off track and celebrate the good days.

Namaste

 

8 Ways to Beat SAD:Seasonal Affective Disorder

shutterstock_16670971

The days are now shorter, colder and darker. This trilogy can lead to a certain mood disorder know as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, also known as the “winter blues”. Many people, and I think I’m one of them, suffer from this mood disorder, which can lead to depression if not recognized and treated. Symptoms of SAD typically start in late fall and can last throughout the winter.

Some of the symptoms of S.A.D. include:

  • Irritability
  • Poor Concentration
  • Decreased interest in activities, social events
  • Decreased Energy
  • Altered sleep patterns (generally oversleeping)
  • Overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased Libido

If this sounds like you, don’t worry, know that it is real and you are not alone. It affects about 10 million Americans a year. Although the exact mechanism is not well known, several theories exist around the lack of natural sunlight, including:

  • Lack of light alters our circadian rhythm
  • Lack of light alters serotonin levels (decreases), a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood
  • Lack of light affects melatonin levels (increases), a hormone that regulates your sleep

The good news is that there are many things you can do to relieve these symptoms. Like many illnesses or disorders, mind over matter is key to taking an active roll in healing.

Here are a few ways to treat SAD and lift your mood:

  • LIGHT. Every chance you get, go outside! Soak up all the sunlight you can. But even if its not sunny, go outside anyway,and soak up the energy that abounds, on the earth, in the stars, from the moon, and in the wind. Like many people, when I go to work in the winter, it is dark in the morning, & it is dark when I get out of work. So, on weekends, I take long walks on the beach with my dog, Rocky, and immerse myself in nature. I swear it changes me. If you can’t get outside, light boxes can transform your inside environment and hopefully your mood
  • Reduce stress. During the winter months, people with SAD have a reduced ability to handle stress. I recommend you do whatever it takes to reduce stress.
  • Meditation – scientifically proven to reduce stress
  • Yoga – ditto for Yoga. Sign up for a class. Go regularly. The routine and the community keep your spirits high
  • Exercise regularly
  • Watch your diet. While people with SAD are more likely to crave sweets and simple carbohydrates, these meals will likely exacerbate symptoms of SAD – sluggish, overweight & inactive. Choose a diet high in protein, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates.
  • Turn up the tunes. Research shows that listening to upbeat or cheery music significantly improves mood in the short and long term.
  • Plan a vacation. The simple act of planning a vacation has been shown to improve mood.
  • If you have persistent symptoms of depression, speak to a doctor.

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-11-26-56-pmNamaste

The Challenge-What We Learn and How We Grow

The Challenge….complete 21 yoga classes in the month of October. Sounds simple enough, right?

The Cambridge Dictionary definition of Challenge is — something needing great mental or physical effort in order to be done successfully, or the situation of facing this kind of effort. This means different things to different people.

Again and again, I find that what I do on my mat is often a metaphor for what I do or how I am being off the mat.

THIS IS YOGA.

I took on this challenge because I felt my soul calling me back to the yoga studio, a sort of second home filled with loving family. While stepping onto my mat at the studio brings me tremendous joy and peace, the days and even moments getting there were frankly, for me… challenging. My days at work as a cardiologist are challenging in and of themselves, add to that not knowing when the day ends and then traffic in the last moment rush to make a class, spells out …

STRESS.

Then last weekend I was on call and had a “plan” to get in at least one class on the weekend. Then, a  patient having a heart attack is flown in via helicopter and this changes everything.. my plans, my perspective, my definition of challenge. The Challenge … being the best doctor I can be, trying to save a life, fighting (loudly) for everything possible to be done, and accepting the outcomes without

SELF JUDGEMENT.

  The Challenge … finding peace in whatever happens each day, because this does take “mental effort”. Knowing that you did your best and that your best is always enough.

THIS IS YOGA.. Providing us with the tools needed for navigating the challenging course that is life.

In our personal lives, we all have our challenges. Some challenges are clearly less daunting than others but nevertheless, all are real for us at the time, and often result in physiological stress. For me, most of the time, my challenges are small and insignificant and self-imposed… getting up early to run, running a half marathon, getting to the yoga studio, meditating regularly, and being a good doctor. Nothing in comparison to my sister’s daily challenges of raising a family, running a company and dealing with her own health problems. Yet she does it all with grace and determination.

So, the question is not what are your challenges, but how do you respond to them.

viktor-frankl-quote

The Challenge is …. to sit quietly and listen to the wisdom that can only come from within.

This past weekend, I had the exact opposite experience of my last weekend. I went to a yoga workshop led by Rolf Gates, globally recognized yoga teacher and author. He talked about how we practice yoga on and off the mat … with an open heart and attention to the present moment. It is these tools that can help us get through the challenging moments in our lives.

The Challenge is …. Allowing. Allowing life to unfold as it will.

The Challenge is …. Accepting. Accepting Life as it is in the moment, being present in it, and being your best You.

The Challenge is … Not what you do, But How you do it.

And yes, I did complete the 21 days! On to the next challenge.

Namaste