Memorial Day Murph Challenge

Today I completed the Murph Challenge in honor of my cousin Patrick. He wanted to join the Marines but died in a tragic act of gun violence before he could enlist. This workout was for you, Patrick, as well as all of the amazing men and women who have so bravely given their lives for our country. Thank you.

Here is a picture of my hand with my time on it.

The Truth About “Summer Body” Diets

Summer is almost upon us, and diet culture is in full swing. Wraps, workouts, detoxes, and diet pills are everywhere, ready to help you achieve that dream summer body. Green juices, waist-trainers, gym memberships, skinny teas: they’ve got you covered. Just pay $200 and you, too, can have a flat stomach, toned butt, and thigh gap! Sounds like a great deal, right?


Wrong. These products are largely ineffective and frequently injurious. Wraps, if they aren’t just expensive pieces of cloth, can squish your internal organs and/or disrupt respiratory function. Intense workouts, when not prepared for properly, have the potential to cause cardiogenic and systemic shock (the latter manifesting as myocardial infarction, stroke, or sudden cardiac death). Cleanses may damage your liver and send your body into a caloric-deficit induced state of self-consumption, and diet pills, provided they are not overpriced placebos, strain the liver and stress the heart, resulting in palpitations, arrhythmias, and arterial spasms. All of these are serious complications, which can lead to permanent damage and in some cases death.

I, for one, don’t fancy spending my summer in a hospital (or worse a morgue). That’s why the only thing I’m changing about my body this year is the clothes I put on it. Summer is meant to be enjoyed not wasted worrying about how some stranger thinks I look in a swimsuit. EveryBODY is a bikini body, so get out there and have some fun in the sun! Play in the ocean, kiss in the sand, and drink some delicious cocktails! You deserve it. 

Wear Red Day

You’re going to see a lot of red today–red shirts, red snacks, red selfies. Maybe you’ll get in on the trends. Maybe you’ll buy that now-discounted red dress from Macy’s; maybe you’ll bake red velvet cupcakes for your AP Bio study group; maybe you’ll donate ten bucks to a red campaign; maybe you’ll smear red lipstick under your eyes and snap a photo with your #BFFs. That’s fantastic, but please remember why you’re doing this; please realize there’s a reason for all this red. 

We go red for women. We go red for those past, present, and future, for those who have died of heart disease, for those who live with it, and for those who will someday be diagnosed. We go red for the 17.5 million individuals who die of heart disease every year and for the 85.6 million Americans currently battling a cardiovascular condition. We go red for the 33 million people annually affected by stroke and for 3 million who have suffered heart attacks in 2016. We go red for the 70 million people living with congenital heart defects and for the 12% lucky enough to survive cardiac arrests. We go red for children, for men, and for women. We go red for caregivers, for practitioners, and for survivors. We go red for loved ones, for strangers, and for ourselves. We go red for heart disease, and we go red for the people affected by it.

So wear your red and wear it proudly, but please, please know that there is more to heart disease than a certain color t-shirt. Wearing red is a nice gesture, but ultimately, it does nothing to fight this life-threatening, life-altering cluster of conditions. You can and should do more. Volunteer at your local hospital, learn CPR, fund lifesaving research, and most importantly, GET HEART CHECKED! Do your part, and together we can beat heart disease.

Underweight and Underrepresented: The Cardiac Complications of Disordered Eating

We get it. Being overweight is bad for you. Extra weight strains the heart, forcing it to work harder, consequently raising your blood pressure and increasing your risk of myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathies, and stroke. Spending your days on the couch binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy probably isn’t the best lifestyle choice, and a diet of salty, trans-fat-fried carbohydrates cannot possibly be good for you. You do need some exercise to strengthen your heart, and fruits and vegetables are a nutritional necessity, but that’s common knowledge; we all know that already. So, let’s discuss something different; let’s discuss the other extreme–severe emaciation, caloric restriction, and compulsive purging. Underweights are underrepresented by/in the cardiovascular health community, and thusly, I have taken it upon myself to educate you on this equally unhealthy lifestyle.

Bradycardia and hypotension are the two most common cardiac complications of anorexia. In an endeavor to conserve energy, the body begins to shut down, slowing the heart rate and consequently lowering the blood pressure; neither matter is helped by nutritional irregularities/deficiencies (such as B-12, iron, magnesium). Both bradycardia and hypotension are generally benign, but prolonged cases of each can result in confusion, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, heart failure, and tissue death. Many bradycardic and hypotensive patients notice spikes in their heart rate and blood pressure when they stand up; some even experience palpitations, lightheadedness, and collapse. And that’s just standing–imagine what exercise can do!

Exercise in and of itself cannot cause a heart attack, but it can trigger one. The stress on your heart can induce palpitations, arrhythmias, arterial spasms, sudden cardiac death, and, yes, a heart attack. This exercise, while it should strengthen your heart, ends up weakening it because of the atrophic nature of muscles during starvation; you break down the muscle without giving it the energy it needs to build up again. Do I really need to tell you how dangerous this is?

This brings me to the second half of my post, the nutritional component. When deprived of nutrients, the body starts to eat itself. Contrary to popular belief (read: diet industry propaganda), fat is not the first thing to go; on account of their nutritional density, muscles are devoured, and the heart, as one of the largest muscles, is a natural victim. You can literally eat your heart out.

This catastrophic self-consumption leads to many dire results, including mitral valve prolapse, the flopping of the mitral valve, where its flaps collapse and allow for valvular leakage and regurgitation, eventually leading to arrhythmias, left ventricular enlargement, strokes, and heart attacks. Self-consumption is premised by malnutrition, an incredibly harmful state in its own right. A caloric deficit is also a nutritional deficit, since calories are not just energy, but couriers, carrying vital vitamins and minerals, including essential electrolytes. Electrolytes are necessary for heart function, as the heart’s de- and repolarisation is facilitated by ionic channels. A severe shortage of electrolytes can have immediate results like life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias; these, including the frequently fatal ventricular fibrillation, can cause cardiac arrest and, in rare instances (represent!), a heart attack. Consequences can be lasting as well, with electrolyte deficiencies yielding permanent extrasystoles (both atrial and ventricular, including various varieties of geminy) and Long QT Syndrome, the latter of which predisposes one to chaotic heartbeats, and in turn, heart attacks and/or cardiac arrests. It is also worth noting that heart attacks do permanent damage to the myocardial muscle, creating eventual and incurable cardiomyopathies.

Additionally, many underweight individuals are susceptible to vicious binge/purge cycles. A binge’s rapid influx of calories can cause systemic shock, manifesting as cardiac arrest, and self-induced emesis can do the same, with dehydration and the abrupt loss of electrolytes rendering similar effects. The cardiac complications of anorexia can be fatal, and if you are lucky enough to escape them, you are still susceptible to recovery-occurrent ones such as refeeding syndrome, a type of systemic shock analogous to that of a binge. Sounds fun, right?

Please do not do this to yourself. Maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet, and exercise in moderation! Your body will thank you.

‘Tis the Season: Heart Health and the Holidays

‘Tis the season for gingerbread, candy canes, presents, snowmen, joy, good cheer… and, apparently, heart attacks! Yes, according to the American Heart Association, more heart attacks occur during the holidays than any other time of year (with Christmas logging the most heart attacks per day annually!). Take extra good care of your heart this year and make your holiday one of stories not statistics. Read on to find out how:

  • Stay warm: When it’s cold, your arteries constrict to preserve heat; the flow of oxygenated blood to and from the heart is thusly decreased, forcing the heart muscle to work harder. Sudden temperature changes (e.g. stepping out into the cold or participating in the polar plunge) can trigger a heart attack in predisposed persons. Additionally, prolonged exposure to the cold can result in frostbite and/or hypothermia, causing tissue death and even freezing the heart muscle so it can’t contract. Bundle up!
  • Don’t overdo it: There are so many winter sports–skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, tubing, and my personal favorite, ice skating! While many of these activities are wonderful ways to get exercise, they can do more harm than good. Since your heart is already strained by the chilly temperature, it is easy to overexert yourself and inadvertently trigger dangerous arrhythmias, arterial spasms, and consequent cardiac ischemia. Be careful!
  • Follow the rules: The holidays present lots of temptations and distractions. It’s easy to get caught up in the bustle and forget to take your meds, or skip your workout, or accidentally eat that thing you’re banned from. Don’t! Set reminders for yourself on your phone, find a buddy to hold you accountable, put up sticky notes, whatever–as long as you’re following doctor’s orders. They really do know best!
  • Take precautions: At Christmas, we exchange germs as well as gifts. The flu is awful for everyone, but it can be especially harmful to those with heart disease. Ask your cardiologist if you’re healthy enough for a flu shot. If you are not, stay away from sick people and wash your hands frequently in order to avoid contracting the influenza virus. You should also inform your cardiologist of planned air travel and intended alcohol consumption, as they can respectively increase the risk of blood clots and mimic feelings of warmth. If you do fly or drink, take the necessary precautions like blood thinners and extra coats. It is better to be safe than sorry!
  • Minimize stress: With family reunions, Christmas shopping, and airport lines, the holidays can take an emotional toll on us as well. Emotional stress causes physical stress, notably a raise in heart rate and blood pressure due to adrenaline release. Severe emotions including stress can trigger chest pain (stable angina), palpitations, and ‘broken heart syndrome’, a type of cardiomyopathy where part of the heart enlarges temporarily; a heart attack, stroke, or cardiac arrest could result. Deal with stress immediately, or you may become reliant on maladaptive coping mechanisms such as alcoholism, drug addiction, and/or eating disorders, all of which will further damage your heart.
  • Be aware: Take time to check in with yourself. Register how you’re feeling and act accordingly. If snow shovelling’s got you tired, take a break. If your family won’t bug off, get some alone time and breathe. If you’re cold, put on some gloves. If you’re feeling a bit peckish, eat a festive snack. If you experience chest pain or any other symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

Thank you for reading! Have a happy and healthy holidays!


Recipe: Avocado Toast with Goat Cheese

I apotheosize Instagram.


Ingredients:

  1. 2 slices of bread, whole wheat preferred
  2. 1 avocado
  3. 2 ounces goat cheese
  4. 1 teaspoon chile flakes
  5. 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  6. Drizzle of sriracha sauce
  7. Ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation:

  1. Toast bread. 
  2. Peel and de-seed an avocado. Use a fork to mash it in a small bowl. Add lemon juice and continue mashing. Spread on toast. 
  3. Crumble goat cheese and sprinkle it atop toast. Garnish with chile flakes and drizzle with sriracha. Add ground pepper to taste. 

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I was in the ER about three months ago, I threw up a slushie of my internal organs on a poor crew of doctors. I felt bad, so as soon as I got released, I made them these cookies.


Ingredients:

  1. 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  2. 1 egg
  3. 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  4. 1 cup and 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  5. 1/2 cup brown sugar 
  6. 1/2 cup white sugar
  7. 1/2 cup thinly-chopped walnuts
  8. 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  9. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  10. 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix egg, vanilla, and softened butter. Beat and set aside momentarily.
  3. In another bowl, mix flour, sugars, soda, and salt. Stir these ingredients, making sure the brown sugar does not clump. Add walnuts and chocolate chips before stirring once again.
  4. Combine the contents of the two bowls. Stir until the texture is consistent throughout and the distribution of the nuts and chips even.
  5. Use a tablespoon to transfer dough from the bowl to a greased or parchment-covered cookie sheet. Each cookie should be about two tablespoons large. Once the quantities have been measured, roll dough into balls. 
  6. Place cookies in oven and bake for 10 minutes.