In praise of solitude after a heart attack

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters


“Others inspire us, information feeds us, practice improves our performance, but we need quiet time to figure things out, to emerge with new discoveries, to unearth original answers.”

This wise counsel is from Dr. Ester Buchholz, author of The Call of Solitude.  She describes solitude like this as “meaningful alone-time” – a powerful need and a necessary tonic in today’s rapid-fire world. Indeed, she maintains that solitude “actually allows us to connect to others in a far richer way”.

She likely didn’t write that as specific advice for those of us living with heart disease, but it struck me when I read her words that, although they are probably very true for all women, they are especially applicable to heart patients.

Indeed, maybe our heart health would actually improve if we were more determined to carve out more ‘me-time’ during the average day.  Continue reading “In praise of solitude after a heart attack”

Were you “born to walk”?

Dr. James Beckerman talks to one of his 'Heart To Start' groups in Portland
Cardiologist Dr. James Beckerman leads one of his ‘Heart To Start’ groups in Portland

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

“Physicians, get out your prescription pads and prescribe this book to every one of your heart patients. This encouraging, common sense and easy-to-read book deserves to be in the hands of all freshly-diagnosed heart patients and those who love them.”

That’s the little blurb I wrote for Oregon cardiologist Dr. James Beckerman’s new book, Heart To Start.*  As explained in last week’s book excerpt published here, Dr. B believes that heart disease is essentially a sitting disease.  To rally against that, he embraces a profound belief that “exercise is medicine”  – and this is especially important for all of us heart patients. In fact, he believes that physical exercise is the least prescribed yet most effective heart treatment. Far too many of us, however, get little or no regular physical activity – particularly while recuperating from a cardiac event – and instead insist on doing something that just might be dangerous to our health: we sit.  

But Dr. Beckerman believes that what we most need to do is to move more. We were “born to walk”, he reminds us. And even if we weren’t born to walk, we sure weren’t born to be sitting around all day.   Continue reading “Were you “born to walk”?”

Heart disease is a sitting disease

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

When Oregon cardiologist Dr. James Beckerman sent me a copy of his new book called Heart To Start and asked me to review it, I agreed – but I have to tell you that it took me a month to actually open it and read it. These days, I’m often invited to review heart-related books of fairly dubious quality, so I tend to be a wee bit wary when taking on another review. But I’d already been following Dr. B for some time on Twitter, and I’d even quoted him in this 2013 blog article – so part of me really, really hoped I would like his new book.

But I was wrong. By the end of the first chapter, I realized that I didn’t like this book.  I loved it!  Continue reading “Heart disease is a sitting disease”

Women’s heart health advice: “Walk often, walk far!”

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

If you are one of those misguided sods who still believe in the exercise axiom: “No pain, no gain”  – you can stop reading right now.  The rest of you, rejoice!  According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, taking a long daily walk may be a better way to go to improve heart health, lose weight and feel better.

A randomized controlled clinical trial funded by the NHLBI compared two exercise programs for heart attack survivors:

  • 1.  Standard cardiac rehab exercise:  25-40 minutes of exercise three times per week at approximately 65-75% peak aerobic capacity. This included 25 minutes of treadmill walking and 8 minutes on 2 to 3 ergometers: cycle, rowing, or arm.
  • 2.  High-calorie expenditure exercise: longer duration but lower intensity,  more frequent exercise (45-60 minute sessions, but at just 50-60% peak aerobic capacity, 5-7 times per week).

Walking, rather than weight-supported exercises (such as cycling and rowing), was preferred to maximize calorie expenditure, which was targeted at 3,000-3,500 calories per week. The protocol was essentially to “walk often and walk far.”  All heart patients studied were considered overweight before starting the program. Each subject  also received 16 hours of group dietary counselling, and were given a target goal of consuming 500 calories per day less than their predicted maintenance calories.

What did their results show?  Continue reading “Women’s heart health advice: “Walk often, walk far!””