Here's To Your Heart Health!

  • Hello everyone! I've decided to write about a topic that could seem "chiding," yet I've come across it in books and on the Internet too often to let it pass by. I'm deeply, deeply concerned not only that all of us living with schizophrenia have a life quality we can enjoy and be proud of, but that we don't "run out of life" before we run out of good times.


    Specifically, I'm going to talk about one simple solution that could be the start of lifelong good health. I'll put a fine point on it because it's something we can do to take charge and possibly increase our life expectancy. Some things we can't control, but hey, this one we can.

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    If you think my claim is a stretch, read on. My blog entry will talk about soft drinks, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease. Why is having metabolic syndrome a great health risk? It contributes to a heart attack or other cardiovascular event.


    On July 23, 2007, Yahoo! News Canada covered a U.S. study of middle-aged adults that found drinking more than one soft drink a day-even a sugar-free diet brand-could be associated with an elevated risk for metabolic syndrome, which is linked with five specific health indicators: excess abdominal fat; high blood sugar; high triglycerides; low levels of the good cholesterol HDL; and high blood pressure.


    According to researchers, compared to people who drank less than one can per day, participants who downed one or more soft drinks daily had a:

    • 31 per cent greater risk of becoming obese (with a body mass index of 30 or more).
    • 30 per cent increased risk of adding on belly fat.
    • 25 per cent higher risk of developing high blood triglycerides or high blood sugar.
    • 32 per cent higher risk of having low HDL levels.

    The study was published in Circulation: the Journal of the American Heart Association. Reasons for the health risks could be that individuals who drink one or more colas or soft drinks per day tend to have greater caloric intake in general, with more saturated fats and trans fats in their diet, and with a lower consumption of fiber.


    Miriam E. Nelson, Ph.D., in her book Strong Women, Strong Hearts, details these risk factors for developing metabolic syndrome:

    • Abdominal obesity (waist circumference greater than 35 inches)*
    • High triglycerides (at least 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood)
    • Low HDL-cholesterol (less than 50 milligrams per deciliter of blood)*
    • High blood pressure (at least 130/85)
    • High fasting glucose, or blood sugar, which is a precursor to diabetes (at least 110 milligrams per deciliter of blood)

    *The numbers apply specifically to women.


    Men and women who want to manage metabolic syndrome will benefit from a combination of weight loss, dietary modification, and increased physical activity and, in some cases, medications. How can we start this? By nixing colas.


    Nelson tells us succinctly, "Don't drink your calories," and with good reason. To quote her, "the calories you drink don't end up making you feel as full as the calories you eat." And to quote the Purdue University study she details, researchers "gave people either 400 calories' worth of sugary jellybeans or 400 calories' worth of sugary soda pop."


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    What do you think happened? Quite simply, "the people given the jelly beans ate fewer calories later in the day to compensate for their jelly bean consumption, and the soda drinkers did not." Why? One reason may be that liquids don't trigger satiety mechanisms in the gastrointestinal tract in the same way that solids do.


    As I've linked these two reports, take heart. I'm not an expert, but I know one thing: when you drink colas, you're making the beverage companies cash rich and your health poor. I've never understood the attraction to soft drinks. I used to have a friend who looked aghast when we dined together and I drank skim milk, and she opted for Coca-Cola. At some point we all have to stop worrying what people will think of us if we choose to put our health first.


    Did this sound like chiding? As I've said, this is a concern to me because we deserve a long life. Here's to a long life to you! Myself, I now have the goal of living to be at least 80, with the most important goal making sure I don't outlive my money. I remember going to my mother's aunt's 80th birthday party, and Aunt Angie told us she looked forward to every new year. The woman was 80! Not knowing purple was her favorite color, I bought her an amethyst necklace that she opened and promptly wore. Her sunny good cheer was infectious. We sat outdoors on tables at her daughter's farmhouse, and enjoyed a hearty meal.


    I bring this up because all of us should have memories such as this to cherish. I may not live to be 80, but I want to make it a good life while I'm here. After writing this blog entry, I feel I need an energy boost, and a glass of skim milk will do the trick. Care to join me?

Published On: October 04, 2007