Rob Zukowski is a New York State LMT, certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, a Certified Medical Massage Therapist and holds a degree in Occupational Studies, with a focus on massage therapy, from the prestigious Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences. He has advanced training in sports massage, various relaxation therapies, and training in multi-therapeutic approaches to massage for oncology.

In addition to private practice, his experience includes being a massage therapist, lead therapist and member relationships manager in assorted fitness centers, spas, clinics and holistic healing settings and working in corporate wellness environments. Rob also works as a client services manager at a healing center, authors his own column on the subject of complementary and alternative medicine in a national HIV/AIDS magazine, works in student outreach and lectures on therapeutic massage for various pathologies.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What the Heart wants. In my opinion.

Let's talk about the heart for a minute. Not just "the" heart, my heart. Occasionally, I get something called arrhythmia, which in simple terms, is an irregular heart beat. I certainly have some of the risk factors, high blood pressure in one, albeit controlled; diabetes, hyperthyroidism and stress being others. Also, things I manage. Now, couple these things with the fact that I naturally have some extra heart beats and you have a recipe for arrhythmia. 

There are other things that can lead to arrhythmia as well. Arrhythmia can be a sign of a heart attack that's occurring right now. It could be caused by scarring of heart tissue from a prior heart attack or due to changes to your heart's structure, such as from cardiomyopathy or blocked arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease). Smoking, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, drug abuse,some medications,  dietary supplements and herbal treatments can be the culprit. Even electrical shock and air pollution play a role.

Millions of people walk around with arrhythmia every day. What I have always been told to watch for in these situations is not so much the irregularity of my rate, but the speed. The average resting heart rate is around 72 BPM. Having an arrhythmia with an average rate is not all that dangerous. But, the real risk comes about with an elevated heart rate. At 72, or thereabout, BPM, you heart can do its job. Blood flows in, blood flows out. Cool. But when you start to get an elevated number of beats, the heart cannot pump the blood out as fast as it is taking it in. Sitting blood is a recipe for clots. Wave your finger at it and say "clot bad!" 

On Sunday morning I woke up, or was woken up, by an arrhythmia. MY BPM was good, 70's and low 80's. The first thing I did? Panic. The second thing I did was pretty western. I took an extra metoprolol, which is used to slow the heart rate or keep it slow, and then took half a klonopin to deal with the anxiety; which clearly, would do my heart rate no good at all. 

Then, I went a bit more crunchy, herbal and holistic. I am a firm believer that both east and west have their advantages and I like to benefit from both. WebMD, with the help of nutrition experts from The Cleveland Clinic and the American Dietetic Association, put together a list of the "best of the best" heart-healthy foods. So, I did a little shopping and made some healthy meals and mixes. Some might say that it does no good to hold the railing if you have already fallen down the stairs. I say, maybe I need to hold the rail to help me get back on my feet. 

The foods listed here are all top-performers in protecting your heart and blood vessels. And I went shopping. 

Has Omega-3 fatty acids, which the say is good for heart health.

  1. Flaxseed (ground)
Omega-3 fatty acids; fiber, phytoestrogens. I add it to my granola.

  1. Oatmeal
Omega-3 fatty acids; magnesium; potassium; folate; niacin; calcium; soluble fiber. I add the nuts (below) to my oatmeal.

  1. Black or Kidney Beans
B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate; magnesium; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; soluble fiber. Awesome with the brown rice (listed below).

  1. Almonds
Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.

  1. Walnuts
Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; folate; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.

  1. Red wine
Catechins and reservatrol (flavonoids). They say a glass of red wine could improve "good" HDL cholesterol. I opted out on this one since I took my western meds. 

  1. Tuna
Omega-3 fatty acids; folate; niacin.

  1. Tofu
Niacin; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium. I do love tofu, but you should research it. It is said that it is not good for thyroid function and not the best for men. Moderation please

  1. Brown rice
B-complex vitamins; fiber; niacin; magnesium, fiber.

  1. Soy milk
Isoflavones (a flavonoid); B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate, calcium; magnesium; potassium; phytoestrogens. Soy milk can be heart healthy, but again, look it up, it has its drawbacks. 

  1. Blueberries
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); anthocyanin (a flavonoid); ellagic acid (a polyphenol); vitamin C; folate; calcium, magnesium; potassium; fiber.

  1. Carrots
Alpha-carotene (a carotenoid); fiber.
Baby carrots are sweet for lunch. Sneak shredded carrots into spaghetti sauce or muffin batter.

  1. Spinach
Lutein (a carotenoid); B-complex vitamins; folate; magnesium; potassium; calcium; fiber.
Pick spinach (not lettuce) for nutrient-packed salads and sandwiches.

  1. Broccoli
Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); Vitamins C and E; potassium; folate; calcium; fiber.
Chop fresh broccoli into store-bought soup. For a veggie dip, try hummus (chickpeas).

  1. Sweet potato
Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); vitamins A, C, E; fiber.

  1. Red bell peppers
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.

  1. Asparagus
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; fiber.

  1. Oranges
Beta-cryptoxanthin, beta- and alpha-carotene, lutein (carotenoids) and flavones (flavonoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.

  1. Tomatoes
Beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.

  1. Acorn squash
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium; fiber. I thank Whole Foods for their baked curry acorn squash. 

  1. Cantaloupe
Alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.

  1. Papaya
Beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein (carotenoids); Vitamins C and E; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium.

  1. Dark chocolate
Reservatrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids). They say a truffle a day lowers blood pressure, but choose 70% or higher cocoa content. Chocolate is still high in sugar and has caffeine, so watch your intake. 

  1. Tea
Catechins and flavonols (flavonoids). Decaf.

Also, Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage. Magnesium, potassium, and calcium help lower blood pressure. Fiber-rich foods help lower cholesterol levels.
And for stress? I am glad you asked. Lot's of scheduled diaphragmatic breathing  and my music of choice? Elias Prayer Cycle
Again, I am not a doctor. These are my own personal opinions, ideas and processes from my own research, trial and error. Take 'em, leave 'em, either way, consult a medical professional as needed. 

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