The quick answer: Don’t die of a broken heart—live a muscular lifestyle and eat a whole foods diet.
The subject this week is heart health. Have you been with someone during a heart attack, or held a friend’s hand before they entered the hospital cath lab for an angiogram, or visited someone after coronary artery bypass surgery? It’s pretty scary, isn’t it? In that moment, we would give anything to have lived better. Our lives depend on us caring for our hearts. In the last post we discussed five steps for doing this. They’re worth repeating:
Based on #1 above, the Healthy Change for the week says: Resist laborsaving devices—incorporate muscular activities into your life.
What’s the exact opposite of muscular activity? Watching TV—being a couch potato. There are some terrible TV statistics: By the time the average child turns 18, I’m told, they’ve seen 40,000 murders. In four hours of Saturday morning TV a child will see 200 commercials glorifying junk food, according to one study. (Yes, the food corporations slip around the parents and go straight for the kids; they’re the #1 advertiser to children. There ought to be a law.) How’s a mom going to compete with that? No surprise that there’s a correlation between TV watching and obesity.
We had a wary relationship with the TV when our kids were growing up. If our TV broke, it might be years before it was replaced. For a few years we had a Laundromat coin meter attached to the TV and the kids had to earn quarters to watch. Another time we had a key-controlled switch. The kids were bright and figured a way around it but they were careful to only do it when we were out. After a Friday night out with the beautiful wife I’d come home and touch the TV to see if it was warm. It’s OK, you know, to let the kids think they’re getting away with something now and then.
I never found time to implement my best idea: An exercise bicycle with a generator attached that the kids would pump to make electricity to power the TV. The idea was they should be outside playing and only get enough TV to stay culturally connected, so they wouldn’t grow up weird. It worked I think, they’re good citizens and all look pretty healthy. The little girl who drew the hearts above doesn’t have TV service in her home. Good parents place strict controls on TV watching.
Sodium and Potassium
You read a lot that we eat too much sodium, or, sometimes, that we get too little potassium. Together they’re medically important so scientists look at our ratio of sodium to potassium. A recent study looked at 12,267 adults, comparing their sodium-to-potassium dietary intake to the chance of dying. Turns out that mortality is 46% higher for those with the highest vs. lowest ratio. Worse, the risk of dying by heart attack is more than doubled.
So how can we eat less salt and more potassium? Here’s where you mainly get sodium: eating food someone else cooks for you. Table salt is 40% sodium but we get it from processed foods—fast foods, commercial snacks, and restaurant meals. If you mainly cook at home using real food, you likely don’t have a sodium problem.
Where do we get potassium? From plants, especially nuts, seeds, and legumes, but potassium is found in all fruits and vegetables. So if you eat a whole foods diet, you get plenty of potassium. What we discover here is that the sodium to potassium ratio is a marker for processed food vs. plant foods in your diet. Eat whole foods and you shouldn’t have a worry.
I spoke to some single adults the other night, about nutrition. They have a tough problem, I think. They mostly live alone, they work hard all day, and it’s hard to prepare a good meal when you’re the only one eating. One explained how it’s a lot cheaper to pick something up than buy groceries for just one person. I don’t think that’s true, but it’s been a long time since I lived alone. You’d laugh if I told you what I ate during the college years. Does any group eats worse than college kids?
Lots of kids today weren’t taught to cook when they were growing up. The group I spoke to seemed like really good people, but they didn’t look healthy. Driving home I wondered how this blog could be more helpful to single people. Couldn’t we do something more—to inform, or inspire?
Please comment: Please share your ideas. How do you control the TV in your home? Or, how can people living alone eat healthy? Thank you for your comments—they make this blog work.