By Mackie Shilstone
During the years I was gathering material for my most recent book, Maximum Energy for Life (John Wiley & Sons, 2003), I learned a lot of startling facts about heart disease, its causes and how it might be prevented.
The book's intent, primarily, is to help the reader develop and fine-tune an energetic lifestyle, rekindle their passion and motivation for living, manage stress for maximum performance levels and reduce the risk of heart disease and other preventable illnesses. I take the position that it's time to take back ownership of our health instead of renting it.
Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. Nearly 60 million Americans suffer from this illness. According to the American Heart Association, if all heart risks were eliminated, average life expectancy in this country would increase by about seven years.In the New Orleans area where I live and operate my business, doctors and emergency medicine physicians list chest pain as one of the most frequently cited symptoms among patients being admitted to emergency rooms for treatment. Chest pain may symptomatic of a potential for heart problems.
New Orleans has one of the highest percentages of overweight people of any of our nation's major cities. Internationally renowned for its cuisine, much of the food served here is deep fried in oils containing high levels of saturated fats, cholesterol and sugar. But obesity isn't just a problem in New Orleans. All over the country people are eating unhealthy foods, drinking unhealthy beverages and living unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles.
For the sake of your personal health, it is extremely important that you gain an understanding of the factors and conditions that put you at risk. Being overweight, of course, is a major contributor those risks but, even more importantly, you need to make sure your body mass index (BMI) is within acceptable limits. (I discuss BMI in depth and show charts on it elsewhere on this website).
A high BMI in the absence of low total body fat may place you at risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Men with a waist measurement in excess of 40 inches and women with a waist measurement of greater than 35 inches may be included in this category. Excessive waist circumference, elevated triglyceride level, low HDL (good) cholesterol level, high LDL (bad) cholesterol level, elevated fasting blood sugar and high blood pressure are also factors that may adversely impact your overall health.
For example, an LDL cholesterol level of 130 to 159 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) is borderline high. A triglyceride level of greater than 150 mg/dl may be problematic. Maximum Energy for Life gives you a step-by-step strategic plan for adopting proper nutrition, exercise and lifestyle modification guidelines and other risk-reducing programs to address these health issues. However, there is no substitute for a good, thorough physical checkup by a licensed physician. As we get older, the need for these checkups becomes more imperative. And they need to be done more frequently than they were done when we were younger. Especially those of us over 40. Our bodies are changing more rapidly than at any time since we were infants and we can't allow our physical conditions to decline through neglect.
You need to take back ownership of your health and follow through on a plan to do exactly that. Follow your doctor's advice. Stay away from foods containing high levels of saturated fat, cholesterol and sugar. Get into a proper exercise regimen. And, above all, keep a positive mental attitude. This is a battle for your own well-being that you're engaged in. Make up your mind that you're going to win and do all the things you need to do to make that possible. Remember -- death is not an option.