Playing the Numbers

By: Chaunte McClure

While some of you were trying to figure out the winning numbers for the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot last month, I dreamed of what I’d do with the money if I won. Oh, I’d pay off every bill we owe, invest in a new home and other real estate and, of course, save, save, save. I never dreamed of which numbers I’d choose because of greater importance to me the numbers are displaying on my brand-spanking new wrist blood pressure monitor.

I don’t even play the lottery and I decided not to gamble with my health after being diagnosed with hypertension in July.

I went to the doctor for unrelated symptoms and as soon as the doctor walked in he asked, “What’s going on with your blood pressure?”

I had no idea. I would normally blame my high numbers on the stress of seminary, but that was two months behind me and at the time, I didn’t have much work stress.

My doctor asked me to monitor my blood pressure for 10 days, then come back and he’d decide if I need a prescription.

I hate taking medicine. I mean, really hate it.

It was easy to start my on-again, off-again relationship with morning or evening walks. I was determined to do whatever it took to get my number down, but nothing worked – at least not immediately.

I borrowed a blood pressure monitor and every time I checked, my numbers were still too high.

I recorded these numbers: 162/ 99, 141/105, 135/95, 157/107. (The optimal numbers are 120/80 or less.)

Sure, anxiety contributed to some of that because I kept thinking about a first cousin who died of a stroke less than two years ago and he was only about 35 years old. Just a few months later, one of my aunts suffered a stroke. Then I remembered Granddaddy had at least three strokes. That’s enough to send anyone into a tizzy.

I decided not to wait the ten days and go to my family doctor before the worst happens. I got an appointment within a week of my previous doctor’s visit. I was expecting exactly what I was told. After sharing my family history, the doctor said, “I’m going to put you on a blood pressure medication.”

I had to ask, “How long do you think I’ll be on the medication?”

He said, “For the rest of your life.” (Insert eyes emoji here!)

That’s not what I wanted to hear and honestly, I thought, “That’s what you think, doc.” I was about to put my faith into overdrive when the truth of the matter is I need to listen to my doctor.

If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or if your doctor has asked you to monitor your numbers, please, listen to your doctor.

High blood pressure affects your health, leading to stroke, heart attack, or kidney disease.

Get into the habit of checking your BP at home or at a local pharmacy. Your life is worth it.

20 Minutes Workout

By: Ashley Whisonant

Disclaimer: Our bloggers are not health experts. Contact your physician if if you are thinking about starting a new exercise program.

Are you feeling a little sluggish lately? I created and completed this quick, twenty minute workout below to reenergize myself and jump start my day.

Give it a shot and let me know how YOU like it!

Warm Up

  • Forward arm circles 15 sec
  • Backward arm circles 15 sec
  • High Knees 15 sec

Activity 1

  • Complete 20 pushups, then 20 stair steps, finished with 20 tricep dips
  • Repeat with 15 of each, then 10 of each exercise

Four Corners (Each corner had a different exercise of 20)

  • Corner 1-plank jacks
  • Corner 2-jumping jacks
  • Corner 3-mountain climbers
  • Corner 4-jump squats

Once you finish the exercise in the corner meet in the middle to do 10 burpees before moving to the next corner.

Then repeat all corners with 20 squats in the middle instead of burpees.

Abs: One minute each

  • Full sit ups
  • Crunches.

Brush Up on the Basics During National Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Every year over 30,000 US families lose someone from a ruptured brain aneurysm. About 40% of those experiencing a ruptured brain aneurysm will die. Those that survive often face significant challenges, greatly impacting their lives and the lives of their families. Today, at the beginning of National Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month, I re-tell my story to raise awareness of brain aneurysms.

On the evening of March 18, I noshed on some dark chocolate covered espresso beans left over from a road trip to see Modest Mouse in Charleston. I ate a lot, at least ¼ of a pound. Then later that evening, I felt a sharp electrical-like impulse go down my part line, and then down my head. Then it felt like ice cold water running down the sides of my head. I felt really weird, like I was outside of my body; I even told my sister that I thought I was dying.

She said that I threw up and felt better; I don’t remember that, but I do remember refusing her suggestion that we call Mom or go to the ER; I said, “No, I just ate too many espresso beans,” and went to bed. She found me unconscious by my bed the next morning.

Aside from being a woman over the age of 40, I had few of the risk factors. I’d lost and maintained an 80 lb. weight loss. I had LOW blood pressure, so much so that I had taken meds to prevent me from having constant vertigo. I never smoked except for one or two cigarettes in college. So I had no idea I may be having an aneurysm. (Unaware to me until after the event, which could’ve been far too late, I did have a family history. My father’s sister, Rose, had one and survived, and they lost two cousins to aneurysms.)

The doctors say that my aneurysm was about as bad as they get, and my family didn’t know if I would survive for three long weeks. Even then, the doctors couldn’t predict a full recovery. I was fortunate to have wonderful care and to go to a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta for follow-up care. My story ended well. I’m still alive, and while I do have some very mild deficits, I’m a living, breathing success story.

From someone who’s been there, I urge you to use this month to learn more about aneurysms, including the risk factors and symptoms. If you have a history of aneurysms in your family, make it a point to talk to your doctor this month.

There is plenty of information available about brain aneurysms. You can talk to your doctor or consult the internet; my favorite site is the Joe Niekro Foundation. I’m not a doctor, but I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have or speak with you or your small group about my experience.

Loss and Gain

By: Angie Sloan

They say that when a person loses their sight, their hearing becomes more attuned. They are suddenly able to hear things on a different level. I assume it is nature’s way of compensating for the loss of vision. It serves to help guide and protect the person from things they can no longer see.

What happens when a person loses (almost loses) their life? What happens after a near-death-experience?

I can answer that. And I am grateful that I can answer that.

After you have faced death, you are more attuned to life. The life around you. The singing of the birds. The feel of the sun on your face. The smell of the rain. You notice things that have become background noise. You feel the emotion of others around you. Rather than just noticing the father carrying his daughter on his shoulders, you feel the joy and exhilaration his daughter feels. You feel the love and adoration they have for each other. You notice the young couple in the restaurant, on their first date. You see the nervousness and anticipation in their eyes. You feel their hope for connection. You see the elderly woman shopping for groceries and feel her confusion when she cannot find what she wants.

You take notice of it all.

On March 1, 2017, I woke up feeling extremely short of breath. I simply could not get enough air in my lungs to walk to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for the kids. Luckily, my oldest son was home and helped get them off to school. I knew something was terribly wrong and once the kids were on their way to school, I called 911. An ambulance arrived within 5 minutes. My oxygen saturation was dropping and they took me to their nearest hospital. Seven people converged on me as I entered the emergency room. Even on oxygen in the ambulance, my oxygen saturation had dropped to 59. I was dying. I knew it.

I tried to stay calm. I knew that getting upset would worsen my situation. I lay there, on the gurney and thought about my life. I tried to remember what the kids were dressed in as they left that morning. I tried to remember their last birthday and what we had done for Christmas. I wanted to make a mental inventory of all the good memories, simple memories, in case that was my last day alive. My oldest son arrived as I was mentally preparing for what would come next.

Seeing him gave me strength. My mom instinct kicked in. I did not want him to witness his mother dying, so I made up my mind that I would get through this. They still could not get my oxygen saturation up. I had a massive blood clot in both sides of my pulmonary artery. The physician looked at me and before he could ask, I said, “Do it. Intubate me. Do whatever you can. I have to be around for my kids.”

And I prayed. I begged God to give them the insight and knowledge to save me. I was not ready to leave this earth. And just as they were about to intubate me, my oxygen saturation came up. My vital signs began to stabilize. I was still in critical condition, but things were improving.

Later than afternoon, they transferred me to ICU, where I stayed for the next 7 days. I was lucky that the physicians were able to shrink the clots in my lungs and my legs with high doses of Heparin and I eventually transferred onto the regular floor of the hospital. After 10 days total, I was released to come home just in time for Jack’s 9th birthday.

As we lit the candles on his cake, I made a wish. I wished that I would always take inventory of the life around me and that I would appreciate every moment. And that wish has been granted.

You don’t have to have a near-death experience to take inventory of your life. The good in your life. The things that matter. The things that don’t matter. I emerged a changed person. I felt like Mr. Scrooge on Christmas day. Being in the ICU for seven days will change your perspective. During my stay in the hospital, not one time did I ever think about the “things” I owned…the clothes in my closet, the car in my garage. I only thought about the people in my life. And the miracle of life itself.

The experience was a wake-up call. I was traveling 3-4 days a week for work. I was constantly on the road and rarely took breaks. I was under a tremendous amount of stress, which all led to the blood clot. I was consumed by what I “had to do” to provide for my family. And then I realized…I don’t need all of the “stuff” I had. I was existing, not living. My life was work, work, work. And for what? Things we didn’t need.

In June, I downsized to a smaller house. I got rid of the gas-guzzling car, and got a cheaper one. I had a HUGE yard sale and sold things I didn’t want or need. I ridded myself of the possessions that almost cost me my life. I traded all of that in for a simpler, more comfortable life. A life where balance is the priority. A life where I am mindful and present enough to savor the little things…those little everyday things. I don’t travel any more for work. I am home for my kids.

Most importantly, I am HERE for my kids. Present. Appreciative. Ever grateful.

Food for Thought

Disclaimer: Our bloggers are not health experts. Contact your physician if if you are thinking about starting a new dietary program.

By: Shannon Boatwright

“Food for thought” means something that warrants serious consideration. Now let me tell you something you should already know…what you eat and drink matters immensely to your overall health and quality of life. Thus, it should certainly be food for thought!

Now there are tons, upon tons, of diets and healthy eating programs out there. But what we need to focus on if we want to truly be healthy, is a change of lifestyle.

I recently completed the Whole30 Challenge. Now let me state something here – I have NEVER done any kind of diet. Ever. Was never my thing. I like food too much and I’ve always just believed that exercise was the answer for me and I could eat and drink whatever I wanted. I’m not in the overweight category, have never been a big soda drinker or sweets eater, and overall believed I was a pretty healthy individual. So this concept of focusing on changing my lifestyle for the better really attracted me.

The truth is, I shouldn’t eat whatever I want. At least not if I actually want to feel good and operate at my best! So what in the world inspired me to try this Whole30 thing? Well, amongst my busy-ness I noticed that one of my dearest friends, Tiana, had been posting things on Facebook about her healthy eating and weight loss. Though I was really happy for her, I honestly didn’t pay much attention to the details of her journey. Then my sweet Tiana came to visit me this past summer. Wowzers!! Not only did she look positively amazing – better than I’ve ever seen her look – but her health journey story with the Whole30 absolutely wowed me! Here was a woman, my age (in our very early, fabulous 40s), a kindergarten teacher assistant, with four kids and a very stressful home life. Before doing the Whole30 and changing her lifestyle, she would have anywhere from 15 to 20 migraines a month, had to get weekly allergy shots, experienced low energy and battled depression. Back in February she completed the Whole30 – a whole 30 days of eating and drinking healthy. It was her doctor that suggested the program in hopes that she would achieve positive results and ultimately all around feel better. She committed whole-heartedly, doing the program all alone in a house full of folks that did not join her in her mission to better health.  She stuck it out and has become a new and improved person, gaining much better habits and incredible awareness of what foods triggered ailments, etc. She went on to lose 40 pounds, has gained a life with zero migraines, no longer has to get weekly allergy shots and has boosted her energy levels immensely. Is that not crazy wonderful or what!??!

Needless to say, her story, her positive experience, totally captured my attention. I wanted, needed a body that functioned better! I desperately wanted to feel better while living my stressful, busy life. And though I considered myself a relatively healthy individual, I have learned so very much from my experience with the Whole30. Which by the way, is not a diet, nor a program really, it’s a lifestyle change. And the number one thing I learned is that the way you fuel and hydrate your body is absolutely critical to truly achieving good health.

Life is short, we have to take care of our vessel if we want to make the most of our lives!

Everyone’s experience with the Whole30 is different. We experience different benefits and learn different lessons. We figure out how to maneuver this healthy lifestyle change to best suit our needs and achieve health success. My biggest benefit is that since a drastic cleaning of my diet, I sleep better. Me! The chick that never sleeps well. The mom and teacher that can never turn off her brain! I can tell you right now that going 30 days without a whole lot of stuff that I really, really like, was totally worth it when I started actually falling right to sleep and finally sleeping well! I really, really hope to hold onto the key to keeping this benefit a part of my life.

Here are a few lessons I learned: 

1) I did not exercise as much as I should have while doing the thirty days, so I probably did not lose as much weight and/or inches as I could’ve. So, I learned that I really need to do better with that and move more on a consistent basis. Not necessarily for the sake of losing weight, but to benefit my body, activate and stretch my muscles, lubricate my joints, etc.

2) I actually experienced not having those afternoon slumps. You know, those moments in the afternoon when most people reach for that sugar filled, caffeinated drink to give you a boost? Yea, well I couldn’t do that while on the Whole30 and surprise, surprise, I didn’t need my sweet tea or coffee in the afternoon. I could drink some good ole water or cold green tea (nothing added) and feel good! For real.

3) I seriously love to cook. And boy did this experience ever give me a chance to get really creative with my cooking! Recipes change when you cut butter, certain oils, grains and dairy out of your diet!  And did you know that sugar is in almost everything!? Seriously, even my absolute favorite seasoning, Lawry’s, has sugar in it! This diet opened up a whole new world for me when it comes to reading ingredient labels! These products get so sneaky. Did you know that there are so many different words for sugar!? It’s crazy. So I learned and certainly experienced the reality and truth behind eating REAL foods, with REAL ingredients.

4) I learned that processed food is BAD. And now that I’ve tasted the difference, I sure do like the real stuff better. So much better! It’s amazing how it all affects your gut. Your body thanks you in so many wonderful ways, when you actually fuel it with real food and not processed, boxed and bagged foods.

The flip side – What I also learned:

1) I learned that I despise – I mean I truly cannot stand – my coffee with no sugar or cream. Yep, can’t do it. Drinking what seems and tastes like dirty water – NOT MY THING.

2) I learned that my body does need some dairy and grains. Fortunately, I do not have any sort of lactose intolerance – as long as I stick with the good stuff and not anything processed in any way. My gut operates better when I have some milk, cheese, yogurt, rice and breads – in moderation, of course.

3) I learned that any type of what I call “fake sugar” is really bad for me. I can literally take one swig of something with aspartame or sweet-n-low, etc in it and it will send me straight to the bathroom. Not good. And guess what, that’s totally fine with me because that fake sugar stuff is terrible for you anyway! When I do have any added sweetness, I’ll stick with the real deal, thank you very much.

4) I learned that I can actually survive just fine without alcohol and still be happy. Yep, I was without my wine. Did I miss it? Sure, there were definitely moments. Ironically, the 30 days that the hubby and I dedicated to the Whole30 were literally filled with special occasions and big events! Ranging from my sister’s 30th birthday to about four different other family birthdays, dessert dinner theatre and other random, special events and celebrations. Not to mention school started back up for me and goodness don’t you know a glass of vino after a long day back to the grind would’ve be so lovely. But nope, didn’t do it, and I survived just fine! My hubby is not a big drinker at all, so that certainly helped me. Instead, we focused on food. But I have to admit, because I do indeed love to cook, I really missed being able to pair the foods with a good glass of wine. On the flip side though – do you know how much money I saved by not buying that wine to go with my food? A lot.

5) I learned that though I have always been a pasta and wine lover, surprisingly it was not the pasta and wine that I missed most and not what my body craved the most during my 30-day experience. I missed my coffee! My Café Bustelo coffee with my French Vanilla creamer and sugar. And when I say I missed it – it was a tragic loss. In all seriousness, there were many days that I literally fantasized about my coffee. In dramatic fashion, with total desperation, all I wanted was my coffee, declaring, I’ll never eat pasta or drink wine again, just let me have my coffee with my cream and sugar!!! But alas, I pushed through the pain and made it out. Will I indulge in my coffee now that my 30 days is up? Absolutely. But, will I be more aware of the amount of creamer and sugar I put in my coffee? Sure thing. And will I limit all the other sugar filled beverages I have so that I can at least have my coffee the way I like it? Yes indeed!

6) The hubby and I learned that honeydew melons are the best fruit on the planet. You might say we overdosed on honey dew. They are the sweetest, yummiest fruit! OMG. In fact, we both probably gained weight and did not follow the Whole30 rules as much as we should’ve because we literally ate so much of that succulent, sweet, heavenly produce. It was how we survived our loss of sugar and now we are forever fans.

7) I learned important, yet ironic lessons about quality and quantity. I discovered that even though the foods we were cooking with were top quality, fresh, real foods, I still have a problem. Quantity!! That southern clean your plate mentality apparently applies to me always. I still tend to eat too much and not listen to my body when it’s full. So I’ve learned to be more aware of how much I put on my plate. Too much food is still too much food, even if it is great-for-your-body food. Moderation! In today’s times we eat enormous amounts of food! And it’s not necessary! We’re consistently overfilling our bodies and what our body cannot process quick enough, just flat out turns to fat and makes us feel terrible! So I’ve definitely learned that even though I’m on a mission to eat real foods, I still must be aware of the amount I’m taking in too.

So all this being said, I want to thank my precious friend Tiana for being the best cheerleader and role model ever! She has supported me every step of the way and been such an inspiration. She even repeated the Whole30 days with me! I don’t think I could’ve done it without her. I am so proud of her dedication to changing her life for the better and so very thankful for her unending love and support in helping me change mine! And to my sweet hubby, Brad, I cannot thank him enough for suffering through this experiment with me! He did not have to do it, but he made the sacrifice and knew it would be easier on me if I had a buddy. He recognized the benefits of making the commitment and I’m ever thankful that we were partners through the experience. It made it all much more meaningful being able to learn through it together. I’m very proud of him for committing to it for the sake of his own health too!

The journey to better health doesn’t have to be such a battle. It’s simply a lifestyle change and really comes down to awareness, smarts, logic and effort. What you put in your body directly affects how you will operate and feel. Period. It’s that simple.

Do you want to get out of your own vicious cycle? How do you plan to take care of this one vessel you’re given in order to live your life to the fullest?

It is definitely food for thought. 😉

5 Tips to Safely Watch the Solar Eclipse

By: Kristen Nida, Guest Contributor

On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America and parts of South America, Africa and Europe will be treated to an eclipse of the sun. Luckily for our community, Columbia, SC will have the longest total solar eclipse on the East Coast! While you are surely excited to witness this rare event, follow these tips to make sure you are doing so safely.

  1. Use Eclipse-Viewing Glasses: This eclipse might be a once-in-a-lifetime event, but remember that you also only get one set of eyes in your lifetime. If you plan to view the eclipse, you must obtain a pair of eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers, which should meet international safety standards. Ordinary sunglasses, no matter how dark, should not be used as a replacement for eclipse-viewing glasses or handheld solar viewers. For those of you who wear glasses, make sure to keep those on and put the eclipse glasses over them. Here is a link find to NASA-approved glasses
  2. Use Filters Properly: Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the sun. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter. The important thing to remember is to not remove it while you are looking at the sun.
  3. Drive safely: It sounds obvious, but be extra careful while driving during the solar eclipse. Do not look attempt to look at the sun while you are driving – even with eclipse glasses. Do not attempt to take photos of the eclipse while you are driving. Instead, exit the roadway and park in a safe area away from traffic to view the eclipse. If you must be in the car, prevent temptation by putting the sun visor down to block your view, and turn on your headlights when it gets dark.
  4. Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen: You can still get sunburned even when it’s not bright outside. Wear sunscreen and stay hydrated if you’ll be outside for a while. Choose a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF and remember to reapply every two hours.
  5. Supervise Children: Always keep an eye on children using solar filters. Make sure they are using them properly at all times.

How to you plan to observe the eclipse? Let us know in the comments section!

Dining Reminders and Suggestions for the Gluten Intolerant

By: Rachel Sircy

Just a reminder to those with a severe gluten intolerance: dining out is dangerous! Now, I don’t mean to say that you can never dine out if you have a severe gluten intolerance or celiac disease, but don’t forget that when you go out to eat, you’re heading out to a virtual minefield of wheat, rye and barley.

It’s been in the news recently that large pizza chains Papa John’s and Dominoes have started to offer gluten free pizza crusts that they warn customers are not for the really gluten intolerant. When I first read the article on these chains, I could only think of all of the warnings that I’ve read on restaurant menus and food packages – warnings that sound like this: “Customers with gluten sensitivities should exercise caution when consuming menu items labeled ‘gluten free.’”  This is pretty much exactly the warning that is printed on the Papa John’s menu.

I will confess to you, I have ignored such warnings for years. I don’t suggest following in my footsteps. I have made myself very sick on a number of occasions. Sometimes, the day after I eat out, I am stuck laying on the couch wishing I had had enough self-control to turn down dangerous food items. But, what’s worse is that a person with celiac disease cannot count on symptoms to tell them when their body has been damaged by gluten. Many times a celiac’s intestinal wall has suffered damage and their body is racked with inflammation and yet the person will feel absolutely nothing. There are no symptoms present in many cases of accidental gluten consumption for celiac patients. So, don’t let your feelings be your guide. Don’t be afraid to be that pesky person in a restaurant who asks questions and who sends menu items back. And don’t ignore the warning signs posted by the restaurant – they are there for a reason!

Unfortunately, many restaurants are trying to respond to the rising demand for gluten free food without considering why people really want to eat gluten free. I’ve said several times on this blog that following a gluten free diet is not necessarily healthy for a person who doesn’t have a gluten intolerance, but that is not exactly the popular opinion. People who don’t need to be gluten free are seeking out restaurants and stores that provide gluten free products. They will go where they can find these products, and they will pay a higher price to get them. These are the customers that Dominoes and Papa Johns are trying to reach out to. So, don’t be surprised when you go to a food joint all excited about their new gluten free menu item and find out that it’s not made for you. Those of us with real dietary needs are still on the back burner at most restaurants, so to speak. There are always exceptions to prove the rule, though. Chick Fil A apparently has gluten free sandwich buns that come in their own sealed packages so they cannot be contaminated by crumbs from other sandwich buns. Each customer has to assemble her own sandwich, which seems fairly safe, but remember the buns are not the only part of the sandwich that may have become contaminated with gluten; the chicken, lettuce and tomatoes are all suspect. Starbucks also has a gluten free breakfast sandwich that I feel pretty confident eating because the whole thing is assembled first and packaged in its own sealed plastic package. It is microwaved in that package, which is never opened in the store itself. So, there are a few options out there, but none of them are ever going to be as safe as the food you prepare for yourself.

We do have some hope, however. There may come a time in the future when gluten free restaurants may become popular enough to open up chains. For right now, there is only one restaurant that I can think of that is totally and completely gluten free and that is Posana in Asheville, NC. This restaurant is one I can recommend without any reservations (insert comedic drum roll) as every item on their menu is gluten free. They don’t serve anything that isn’t gluten free and so there is no risk of cross contamination. The food doesn’t come at fast food prices, so I might suggest that you save it for a special occasion, but it is worth it. When I went there, I had the fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese as an appetizer and I still dream about them. Yum. Their menu items are seasonal, but I’ve had their lemon-blueberry cheesecake and it’s to die for as well. If you’re gluten intolerant and you want a place where you can feel totally safe and where everything is made for you, then I would suggest making a trip to Asheville and pigging out at Posana.

If you’re really interested in Posana (it’s great food whether you’re gluten intolerant or not), check out their website: https://posanarestaurant.com.