Sunday, February 22, 2009

Managing hypertension

I've been struggling with hypertension over the last couple of years. At one point, one of my doctors put me on meds for it. After trying a few different ones, switching due to side effects, I settled on one that seemed to work, but it made me cough all the time, which only exacerbated my incontinence problems. I decided to try to find alternative ways to reduce my blood pressure.

I'd already achieved significant weight loss, but the bp wasn't reducing significantly. It was clear that I needed a multi-faceted attack against the hypertension.

Adding exercise was very helpful. My blood pressure actually dropped quite a bit after months of regular exercise. Exercise is important because a lack of physical activity forces the heart to work harder. Remaining sedentary makes blood flow through the main skeletal muscles more difficult for our hearts to achieve. (You can read about that here) And this is why hypertension is so bad for us, because we add more wear on to our heart muscle through the daily process of forcing it to work harder.

Other things I've tried include eating celery and garlic, which is claimed to help reduce hypertension. I've added celery on a regular basis to my diet. Garlic was already a staple. Getting enough sleep, as well as drinking enough water are also important. But one thing I had not considered before was eliminating added salt.

I didn't want to consider this option before because until a couple of years ago, I'd never had the hypertension problem, and I didn't see how my salt intake, which had never changed, could contribute to my problem. But more recently I noticed that my salt intake really had increased, because I found I had more cravings for it in my diet.

During my last trip to Green Mountain, I noticed that the salt I used from their salt shaker at mealtimes didn't seem to taste as salty as I had expected. I was salting my food, but the saltiness just wasn't there. Those tricksters! But after just one week at Green Mountain, my blood pressure had dropped even more. So I had to accept that salt was a factor in my hypertension.

Over the last few weeks, I've simply eliminated salt from a lot of foods. Cutting out as much processed food as possible was helpful. It really changed my taste for salt. In fact, I just had some uncured turkey hot dogs for lunch and found them to taste really salty! If I use butter in a recipe, it's the unsalted kind. I eat raw nuts now.

I read all labels to see if salt is included. One huge culprit is canned tomatoes. There's an unbelievable amount of salt in canned tomatoes. This summer, I plan to grow my own tomatoes and then process them myself, chopping them and freezing them in Ziploc bags. I will most likely have to pillage a few farmer's markets as well to put up enough tomatoes for the year.

I stopped salting foods during the cooking process, adding it only at the end or at the table, where it will make the most impact.

I'm down to a pre-hypertensive state now. I've got to learn to manage stress better. I bought a DVD on meditation recently. I'm hoping that it'll help me with that too.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sneaking in exercise

My wellness coach told me there was a study on how many more calories fidgety people burn than those who sit still more. An extra 350 calories!

It turns out, I'm not so fidgety (not all with ADD are hyperactive...I happen to be one of the inattentive, slow-moving, day-dreaming ones), but there's no reason why I can't get myself moving more throughout the day.

I started the morning with some cardio on the treadmill, and thereafter, whenever I wanted to watch any of my Tivo'd shows, I got on the treadmill and walked the entire time. I also got on the elliptical cross trainer for a few minutes per show as well. And when I was tired, I sat on my big stability ball, made an effort to keep my posture straight, and bounced up and down on it. I think tomorrow I'm going to add situps during the commercials.

I tried the stability ball while I was at my desk, but it interfered with typing and reading on the laptop. I can't seem to concentrate while I'm reading if I'm also pumping weights or using the Spri Tube.

I am so happy to have the treadmill! I love it! I'm going to be on it all the time!

I bought a Pilates reformer recently. I haven't used it yet. Tomorrow I'm going to finish setting it up. It came with a starter DVD, so I'll give it a test drive tomorrow. I found a really good reformer demo on YouTube. Helps to see what it's supposed to look like.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Fasted Cardio - Fat burning activity

I've been reading up on doing fasted cardio, which is doing some sort of brief period of cardio workout before breakfast. From what I gather, there's a lot of fat floating around in our system by morning, and if it doesn't get used up, our bodies with re-store it. So one of the best things to do is to grab a cup of coffee or green tea and then hit the cardio for about 15 minutes.

I'm going to start doing this tomorrow. Today, my new treadmill is arriving! I'm so excited! It's a brand new Sole F85 treadmill. I'm placing it in my living room, with all my other exercise equipment. My living room is now my gym.

I was conflicted at first...should I get the parsley green leather hide-away from Pottery Barn now, or the treadmill? I really want that sofa! But I really want to lose the weight even more. So I'm making the sofa my reward. When I break 250 lbs., I can have the sofa.

The fasted cardio method might also work at other times of the day, just before meals. Some websites claim this method might actually promote muscle loss, so I think I can have a tin of water-packed sardines or a hard-cooked egg along with my coffee/tea just before getting on the treadmill. The coffee/tea supposedly helps to get the fat ready to be burned as well.

One more thing I'm thinking about tweaking...dairy consumption. I'm taking vitamins, and eating plenty of dark green leafy veggies and sardines, plus using fortified almond milk in my coffee/tea, so I'm not worried about not getting enough calcium. I think I'm going to cut out the dairy. As soon as I eat all my cheese! I love cheese, I mean LOVE. That's going to be a hard one from which to walk away!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Fun winter vacations and planning for it

I'm traveling, again. I'm spending my birthday weekend with my older son, near Lake Tahoe. It's lovely outside, with fresh snow floating down through the forest. I love this part of California.

In the Tahoe area, there's lots to do, if you're athletically inclined. Skiing and snow boarding, snowshoeing, hiking, mountain biking, ice skating. When it's a little warmer, there's rafting and golf, as well as nature walks. There's probably some tennis courts around somewhere. And there's boating on the lake.

But if you're not athletically inclined, there's practically nothing to do here! I was hoping to get out and do something, but no one makes snow clothes for big people. I have my snow boots, and I have my heavy jeans and some sweaters, and a wool coat. I can be warm, but I'm really too overloaded with clothes to make movement through the snow a fun experience. My knees are not helping either. So I'm exercising in the hotel gym, and I've walked around Squaw Valley Village and Truckee a few times. I'm bored now.

I'm looking forward to the time when I weigh substantially less and I can participate in all these things around here. Everyone looks like they're having fun. I don't even have friends that do these sorts of things. Where does one go to make friends to learn skiing with? I'm giving myself a year to lose enough weight to go skiing. The largest ski outfits that I've found are around a size 20, so I need to drop four sizes. In the meantime, I can do conditioning exercises specifically for winter sports during the whole year.

I've read that skiing, in particular, requires lots of upper leg strength. The best way to gain that is weight lifting and cycling, especially up hills. It also requires core strength and cardiovascular endurance. So, Pilates and some sustained cardio for at least 10 minutes.

I'm saving my pennies, too. Winter sports equipment is pricey!