Monthly Archives: March 2013

How I Got Started

Up until I hit about 30 years old, I was not much on physical fitness. I really didn’t have much trouble with gaining too much weight, or feeling like I had a real weight problem (meaning, I felt like I might be happy to lose 5 lbs, but didn’t feel motivated to do so since I was at a normal weight). I ate pretty much what I wanted to and stayed at the same size. That is, until I gave birth to my first child.

I didn’t gain over 28 lbs with that pregnancy, but I didn’t lose the last 8lbs before getting pregnant with my second. With him, I gained 33 lbs and  was at a high weight (for me), 164 lbs, about 40 lbs over my normal weight. I didn’t like my body at that weight, my clothes didn’t fit,  and I was going to have to actually work to get the weight off.

My 10 year anniversary celebration was the same year I gave birth to my second. We planned on going on a cruise that October, so I had to lose about 20 lbs before that. I had managed to get down to about 145 naturally. I began exercising at 6 weeks postpartum, right after my check up, doing some aerobic exercise video tapes (Jane Fonda, I think!) with a friend. I weaned my son from breastfeeding at the end of July; I planned on restricting my calorie intact and knew this wasn’t a good idea while nursing. I had decided that running was the easiest and cheapest way to exercise and lose weight. I only needed shorts, t-shirt, socks and running shoes. No gym membership required!

My first time out, my goal was to keep going for 15 minutes, walking or running. I found I could only jog for about 2 minutes before getting out of breath (did I mention I had 5 weeks of bedrest with both pregnancies? Yeah.) Slowly, over the course of 3 weeks, I was finally able to jog for the entire 15 minutes!

In the meantime, I was using the Slim Fast plan as my eating plan. I added in some extra carb calories (maybe 200-300) to keep hunger at bay. The pounds started coming off and this inspired me to keep going. Instead of emphasizing how far I went on my runs, I went  by minutes. After I made it jogging straight for 15 minutes, the next week, I went 17 minutes three days that week. The next week, it was 19 minutes for three days, and so on, until I was able to jog without stopping for 30 minutes. After that, I actually started taking my car out after my runs to clock the mileage (oh, the days before affordable GPS!)

When my husband and I left for our cruise, I had gotten back down to about 125, my pre-pregnancy weight. I hadn’t seen that number for about two and a half years and I really felt great! Our trip was fantastic and we had a memorable anniversary. After we got back home, I continued with my running. The next year, I decided that maybe a marathon wasn’t a crazy lunatic idea after all, and decided to train for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. I had a great running buddy, Dianne, who would run part of my long runs with me, then bike beside me (and around me) as I finished up my mileage. I was following the training schedule in Jeff Galloway’s Book on Running for a 4 hour marathon finish time. I highly recommend his book. I finished my first marathon in 4 hours, 14 minutes and 19 seconds, a little off my goal, but I finished!!

I’m telling my story to you because I really didn’t believe that I could ever be a runner. A marathon sounded like an incredible feat of physical endurance that only crazy people wanted to accomplish. I didn’t like running (it hurt), I wasn’t athletic (I quit track in junior high because one girl was faster than me). After that first marathon, I would look back and think about the years before my kids were born, all the time I wasted that I could have been so involved in a running club! Runners are fun people, they’re nice, they encourage each other. You’re making an effort to be healthy, races usually raise money for a good cause, having a race as a goal keeps you motivated to get out there and train.

If you’re looking for something to get into, don’t want to spend a lot of money and are willing to put the time in, I would encourage you to try running. Even if you have to walk/run like I did, get out there. Time spent moving your body will reap rewards in lower cholesterol, lower blood sugars, muscle building and fat loss. It’s amazing, too, the psychological benefits of knowing that you can run a mile without stopping.

So, that’s my story of how I got started with my running. If I could do it, you can, too. Let your stubborn, willful self take over and get you out the door. You can do it. No think about it.

My daughter, husband, and I at the 2011 Little Rock Half Marathon

My daughter, husband, and I at the 2011 Little Rock Half Marathon

Under Pressure


Stress plays a big part in many of our lives. I’ve always heard that a certain amount of stress can be healthy, leading us to get things done or change a bad behavior. It’s when stress is a constant part of your life that it can affect your health. Stress has been linked to causing or worsening heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, a weakened immune system, and psychosomatic illnesses.

A psychosomatic illness is an illness that begins with emotional stress or damaging thought patterns, and progresses with physical symptoms.  For instance, have you heard of “nervous stomach” or someone breaking out in hives because of stress?


It can be difficult to avoid stress; there are pressures to pay bills, do well at your job, keep your job, volunteer at your kid’s school, take on responsibility at church, etc. You may be raising teenagers or trying to work things out with your spouse or dealing with the serious illness of a family member. Life just tends to throw things our way, and we have to deal, right?

Knowing that I need to develop better techniques myself, I went in search of tips for dealing with stress. I found a great article listing 25 stress relievers by Elizabeth Scott, M.S. and I wanted to share it with you. Go and take a look at the article, then try to use a couple every week until you find one that really does it for you.

Be good to yourself! ¡Salud!




Do You Have a Midnight Train to Nowhere?


So, your significant other begs to be allowed to fall asleep first. You avoid camping or sharing a room with anyone because when you fall asleep, you’ve been told that you saw logs. You could have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is when you stop breathing repeatedly during sleep, and is considered a serious disorder.

If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a number of health problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure, irregular heart beats, and heart attacks
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Worsening of ADHD

Untreated sleep apnea may also be responsible for poor performance in everyday activities, such as at work and school, car accidents, underachievement at school in children and adolescents, and having to sleep on the couch…or elsewhere.


A sleep study, or polysomnogram, is needed to diagnose sleep apnea. This is a multiple-component test that electronically transmits and records specific physical activities while you sleep. The recordings are analyzed by a qualified sleep specialist to determine whether or not you have sleep apnea or another type of sleep disorder. Most of the time, this study is done at a sleep disorder clinic or sleep lab.

If your sleep apnea is mild, you may be asked to:

  • Lose weight
  • Avoid alcohol and sleeping pills
  • Change sleep positions to improve breathing
  • Stop smoking.  Smoking can increase the swelling in the upper airway, which may worsen both snoring and apnea.
  • Avoid sleeping on your back

Sometimes sleep apnea is severe enough that other measures are needed. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, may be prescribed. This involves a mask that you wear over your mouth or nose. It’s hooked to a machine that blows air into your airway. This way your airway stays open, preventing you from snoring or holding your breath. Depending on the person, a dental device may be a better option, or even surgery, if an anatomical problem is causing the airway to be blocked.

Consider these questions:

  • Are you a loud, habitual snorer?
  • Do you feel tired and groggy on awakening?
  • Are you often sleepy during waking hours and/or can you fall asleep quickly?
  • Are you overweight (BMI > or = 35)  and/or do you have a large neck (> or = to 16in)?
  • Have you been observed to choke, gasp, or hold your breath during sleep?

If you or someone close to you answers “yes” (or plays you a recording of your snoring!) to any of the above questions, you should talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested for sleep apnea. ¡Salud!


Just a Few Grains’ll Do Ya


Have you been told that your blood pressure is a little high? Maybe you’ve been given a blood pressure medicine by your healthcare provider, but you’ve resisted taking it. The most common thing I hear is, “I don’t want to have to take a medicine every day.” So what lifestyle changes could you try to keep from taking a medicine for your blood pressure?

Besides getting at least an hour and a half of exercise in per week and losing weight, cutting back on your salt intake could make a difference. Salt may make our food taste better, but too much can have bad effects on our health. It can raise blood pressure, make the kidneys work harder, cause swelling in the tissues, and make us at higher risk for heart disease. Educating yourself on the foods that have more salt than others may help you lower your intake of salt by making better choices.

Foods that are typically higher is sodium are

  • Fast foods,
  • Canned foods,
  • Frozen meals,
  • Snack foods like chips, pretzels, crackers and nuts,
  • Marinades and flavorings, especially Teriyaki sauce and Soy Sauce, and
  • Packaged deli meat.

Read the nutrition label for how much sodium per serving a product contains and how many servings are in the container or package to see how much sodium you’re taking in when eating the above types of food. It might be an eye-opener!

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2300 mg a day of sodium for most people. For those age 51 years and older, and those of any age, including children, who are

  • African American (more salt sensitive than other races) or
  • have high blood pressure,
  • diabetes, or
  • chronic kidney disease,

should limit their intake to 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

Sometimes, even with lifestyle changes, you may still need a blood pressure medicine; family history can play a strong role in whether you’ll develop it. I’m usually willing to allow my patients at least 3 months of lifestyle changes before putting them on a medicine. So–get out there and exercise, drop a few pounds, and cut back on your salt! ¡Salud!




Bushed, Beat, All In?


“I just feel so tired all the time.” I hear this usually once, if not two or three times a day from different patients. Depending on who I’m looking at, here are a few of the conditions I consider:

  1. Hypothyroidism–A blood test is used to determine if the thyroid is functioning the way it should. Besides fatigue, it can also cause constipation, cold intolerance, and dry skin.
  2. Iron Deficiency Anemia will cause fatigue in men and women. Women who have heavy periods are at risk for this. For men, a blood count, or hematocrit, of less than 40 is generally considered low, and should be seen by a Gastroenterologist (GI) for evaluation of possible bleeding in the gut. Women who have stopped menstruating , but are anemic, should also be considered for referral to a GI doctor.
  3. B12 Deficiency Anemia— Most B12 deficiencies are  caused by not eating enough foods with B12 in them, such as meat, fish, poultry, shellfish, eggs and dairy products. A blood test is used to find out the B12 level in the blood; lower than 300 ng/ml means a deficiency. The quickest way to replace B12 is through an injection once a week for four weeks, then once monthly after that. Any person who has any kind of gastrointestinal disease, such as Crohn’s or Celiac Disease, or who has had any part of their gut removed such as with gastric bypass or colon resection, will need to replace their B12. Alcoholics also need B12 replacement.
  4. Diabetes— High blood sugars cause fatigue. Any person who is obese, has high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a family history of diabetes should be screened for this.
  5. Depression— There are two questions used to screen for depression:
  • “In the past two weeks, have you felt down or sad on more days than not?”
  • “In the past two weeks, have you lost interest or pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy?”

               If the answer is “yes” to either of these two questions, than a more thorough evaluation for depression is done. If depression is diagnosed, treatment options      would be counseling, medication, or a combination of these. A healthy lifestyle is also encouraged as mood can be affected by diet and exercise.

If you think that you are more tired than you should be, or than you used to be, please see your healthcare provider to see if you need to be screened for these common conditions. ¡Salud!

Keep in mind, this is not meant to be a comprehensive list, and each patient’s assessment is based on his/her health history and physical exam.

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