Steps to Live Longer

  • Reduce cholesterol.
  • Burn calories everyday.
  • Find a fitness class you enjoy.
  • Decrease stress.
  • Don't forget strength training.
  • Get your spouse to exercise.
  • Start an exercise program.
  • Learn about our Cardiovascular Health Awareness Program.
  • Learn about nutrition for a healthy heart.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Know your heart disease risk.
  • Find a physician.

Reducing Cholesterol

Reducing High Blood Cholesterol

A major risk factor for coronary heart disease is a high blood cholesterol level. By lowering your blood cholesterol level, you can reduce your chances of developing this life-threatening disease.

Your body needs cholesterol to make cell membranes, certain hormones and other tissues. Cholesterol uses special carriers known as lipoproteins to move through your bloodstream; low density lipoprotein (LDL) transports most of it. In abundant amounts in your bloodstream, however, LDL cholesterol contributes to the formation of plaque which can build up on the walls of your arteries and block the flow of blood to your heart. This condition, called atherosclerosis, can lead to a heart attack.

High density lipoprotein (HDL), on the other hand, is thought to carry cholesterol away from your arteries and thereby prevent plaque buildup. As a result, HDL cholesterol is often referred to as the "good" cholesterol, while LDL cholesterol is referred to as the "bad" cholesterol.

Improve Your Diet

Your liver produces all the cholesterol your body needs, so avoid consuming too much cholesterol in your diet. Dietary cholesterol comes from the animal foods you eat, such as meat, fish, dairy products and poultry. Saturated fat also makes your blood cholesterol level rise.

Foods from plants, such as grains, fruits and vegetables, do not contain cholesterol and are high in starch and fiber. Furthermore, studies suggest that incorporating more whole grain and soy protein into your diet can actually help reduce your total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.

Stay Physically Active

Exercise can increase your HDL cholesterol and decrease your LDL cholesterol. In addition, it helps you lose weight, lower your blood pressure and relieve stress. You do not have to join a gym; an activity such as walking, when done on a routine basis, can help.

Avoid Obesity

Being overweight is associated with higher blood cholesterol levels. Even losing five or 10 pounds can raise your HDL cholesterol and lower your LDL cholesterol. Modifying your lifestyle by eating better and exercising is the best approach; crash diets can be harmful.

Do Not Smoke

Smoking is a major risk factor in heart disease. Furthermore, it lowers your level of HDL cholesterol.

Know Your Blood Cholesterol Level

Your doctor can measure your blood cholesterol level for you. Experts recommend that men age 35 and over and women age 45 and over have their total blood cholesterol level checked every five years. Before menopause, women have lower levels than men of the same age. After menopause, the LDL cholesterol in women increases. Knowing what your total blood cholesterol level is can assist you in setting goals for improving or maintaining it. Under certain circumstances, your doctor may prescribe drugs to help lower your cholesterol level.

Nutrition for a Healthy Heart

A healthy eating plan means more than choosing the right foods to eat. It is important to prepare foods in a healthy way. Some ways of cooking are better than others when it comes to cutting cholesterol, fat and calories. At the same time, you want to get as much nutritional value as possible.

You do not have to give up taste or the things you love. Just learn some heart-healthful cooking techniques and you can have it all (almost)!

What are good ways to cook?

  • Roast with a rack so the meat or poultry does not sit in its own fat drippings. Set at 350 degrees to avoid searing. Baste with fat-free liquids like wine, tomato juice or lemon juice.
  • Bake in covered cookware with a little extra liquid.
  • Braise or stew with more liquid than baking, on top of the stove or in the oven. Refrigerate the cooked dish and remove the chilled fat before reheating.
  • Poach by immersing chicken or fish in simmering liquid.
  • Grill or broil on a rack so fat drips away from the food.
  • Sauté in an open skillet over high heat. Use nonstick vegetable spray, a small amount of broth or wine or a tiny bit of canola oil rubbed onto the pan with a paper towel.
  • Stir-fry in a Chinese wok with a tiny bit of peanut oil.
  • Microwave needs no extra fat; in fact, you can drain food of fat by placing it between two paper towels while it cooks.
  • Steam in a basket over simmering water.

How can I cut fat without losing taste?

  • After browning, put ground meat into a strainer lined with paper towels.
  • To make gravy without fat, blend a tablespoon of cornstarch with a cup of room-temperature broth by shaking them together in a jar. Heat the rest of the broth and add the blended liquid, simmering until thick.
  • Make scrambled eggs or omelets using only one egg yolk per portion. Add a few extra egg whites to the batch or use an egg substitute product.
  • Remove oils by draining canned tuna, salmon or sardines and rinsing them in water.
  • Do not overcook vegetables. Steam or bake them instead of boiling so they keep more of their natural flavors.
  • Mix creamy salad dressing with plain low-fat yogurt.
  • Use finely chopped vegetables to stretch ground poultry or meat.
  • Use herbs and spices to add flavor to foods.

My Eating Plan

Talk about your diet with your doctor, nurse or dietitian. Together, fill in the blanks below. Then use the sample chart below to keep track of what you eat every day.
____ Number of calories
____ Number of grams of fat per day
____ Weight (weigh yourself once a week)
Foods to avoid: __________________________________________
Good foods: _____________________________________________

Meal Number of Calories Number of Fat Grams
Daily Total

Burn Calories Everyday

Many experts now say your daily activities are what really make the difference. Here is how many calories a 150-pound man or woman would burn by doing any of these activities for a half hour. (If you weigh less, you burn fewer calories; if you weigh more, you burn more.)

Exercise calories burned per half hour

Dancing 150
Horseback riding 140
Stretching or yoga 140
Walking (3 mph) 120
Bowling 100
Cooking 80

Swimming laps, slowly to moderately 270
Aerobics, high impact 240
Roller-skating 240
Jogging 240
Tennis 240
Bicycling, light 200
Aerobics, low impact 170
Softball 170
Golf 150
Ping Pong 140

Around the house
Gardening 170
Cleaning the house, heavy 150 (washing the car, washing windows, etc.)
Mowing the lawn (power mower) 150
Raking leaves 140
Food shopping (with a grocery cart) 120
Walking the dog 120
Cleaning the house, light (dusting, etc.) 80

Other tips for burning calories:

  • Devote your lunch hour to exercise.
  • Make use of downtime at work. Stand and lunge when opening your mail. Do squats when you are on the phone. Try a few push-ups against the wall, while waiting for a meeting.
  • Take the stairs, instead of the elevator.
  • Tone up your legs by hopping up the stairs two at a time (while holding on to the handrail).
  • Ask co-workers to go for a walk to talk business. Instead of going out for drinks after work, organize a group run or exercise class.
  • Get into the habit of walking to your co-workers' desks, rather than using e-mail or the telephone.

Stuck at your desk?

Do this move five times a day to strengthen your upper body: Sit with your feet on the floor and grab each side of your chair. Slowly straighten your arms and lift yourself out of the seat. Hold for 5-10 seconds.

Choosing a Fitness Class

Group exercise classes can add variety to your exercise program and give you the opportunity to try new activities.

People often find they do more exercise as part of a group than they do on their own. The instructor, the other people in the class and the music distract you from thinking about how you would rather not be doing push-ups. Best of all, exercise classes can be fun when you find an activity and group you enjoy.

Here are some things to think about when you are deciding which class to join.

Safety First

Be sure the class you take will not aggravate any health problems you may have. If your doctor has recommended that you exercise, be sure you understand any limitations you have on your activity level and discuss these before class with your instructor. For example, are there certain exercises you should avoid because of a knee or back problem?

Look for a class that is somewhat challenging but not too difficult for you. If the class works at a very high intensity, or if the movements are too difficult to follow, you are more likely to experience an injury. Plus, the class will not be much fun! Find a class that will push you a little but will not push you over the edge.

Your Health and Fitness Goals

Why are you considering enrolling in an exercise class? What do you want this class to do for you? Are you looking for activities that will strengthen your muscles and joints? Improve your endurance? Lower your blood pressure? If you are new to exercise, consider seeking advice from a personal trainer or exercise instructor to be sure you choose a class that will help you reach your goals.

Convenience and Setting

You want your exercise class to become a part of your weekly routine. You shouldn't have to think twice about going; it should simply become a habit. This is most likely to happen if the class you join is in a convenient location and fits your schedule.

Some centers may offer additional services and activities that interest you such as exercise equipment or a pool.

You may wish to ask about opportunities to work with a personal trainer or sign up for a fitness assessment. Some centers offer special classes in weight control, stress reduction and other health-related topics.

Ask a Friend to Join You

Joining a class with a friend offers several advantages. Most important, it is nice to spend some time with a friend you would like to see more often.

Second, when you think of excuses to skip class, knowing your friend is waiting for you can make you grab your workout clothes and get to class. Your friend may have similar ideas, and you can feel good about being a good influence. In addition, if you are a little nervous about starting a new class, you may feel better if you have some company.

Quality Instruction

Look for an instructor who is certified and has been trained to teach group exercise classes. Ask friends to recommend good instructors and classes. Perhaps you can even try a class before you sign up for a series.

Good instructors have plenty of energy and enthusiasm and a good knowledge of the activities they are teaching.

Dealing With Stress

Stress is any physical, mental or emotional reaction experienced because of changes and demands in life, whether it be something positive such as the birth of a child or negative as in a significant loss or death. In fact, stress is common in all life events.

Sources of Stress

There are four major sources of stress:

  • Environmental challenges such as inclement weather, noise and traffic.
  • Social stressors such as demands on time and attention, finances, deadlines and giving presentations.
  • Physiological stressors of adolescence, aging, inadequate exercise, poor nutrition and sleep problems.
  • Our thoughts or what we tell ourselves about the events of the day.

Good Stress Versus Bad Stress

Not all stress is bad. Sometimes positive stress (eustress) can motivate and challenge us. However, when stress becomes more prolonged and overwhelming, it becomes negative (distress).

The body responds to stress in three stages: alarm, resistance and exhaustion. Common symptoms of the alarm stage include fear and frustration. At this stage, the body may respond by releasing hormones in the bloodstream which may cause an increase in heart rate. In general, the body becomes ready for action - what we call the fight or flight syndrome. The body is ready to either deal with the stressor or run away from it.

After the alarm stage, the body continues to stay alert to the perceived threat until the resistance stage when the brain signals that "all is clear." At that time, the brain stops producing the chemicals that caused the physical reaction. When the alarm stage continues over a prolonged time, problems with stress occur, leading to the exhaustion stage. This unrelieved stress can lead to many health problems.

In addition to just weighing heavily on the mind, studies indicate stress can contribute to physical illnesses. Experts suggest 80 to 90 percent of all disease is directly, or indirectly, related to stress. Recent studies indicate stress can contribute to physical illnesses such as hypertension, migraine headaches, chronic pain, cancer and heart disease.

Dealing With Stress

The first step to dealing with stress is becoming aware of some of the early symptoms such as:

  • Irritability.
  • Migraine or tension headaches.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Grinding teeth.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle tension.

Once we are aware of the symptoms of stress, we need to develop strategies for keeping stress under control.

Some helpful stress-reducing tips include:

  • Change the way you talk to yourself. You may not be able to control the timing of stressful events, but you can control your reaction to them. Use your mind to relax your body.
  • Try physical exercise. Exercise helps strengthen the body's ability to deal with stress and stimulates the body's production of chemicals called endorphins (which produce feelings of well being).
  • Take mini work breaks. Spend a few moments doing deep breathing exercises or visualizing something pleasant. A few minutes of this type of relaxation is just as relaxing as taking a short nap.
  • Develop leisure activities. Finding hobbies you enjoy can be very rewarding and relaxing.
  • Eat a proper diet. A healthy diet helps us perform at peak performance. Eating lots of fiber and starches can help calm us.
  • Talk things out. Stress and tension affect our feelings and emotions. When we express those feelings to others, we are able to understand them better and cope with them. It is important to have at least one friend, family member or professional with whom we can talk and be heard.
  • Set limits. Learning to set limits and say "no" when appropriate can help us manage time and attention more effectively.
  • Develop your spiritual life. Count your blessings and take time to meditate. Clear your mind and focus on peaceful thoughts.
  • Take a nap, if possible. A 10-minute nap on a stressful day can work wonders.

Baptist Health Counseling offers help in learning how to deal more effectively with stress. For more information, call the 24-hour Access Center toll-free at 1.800.478.1105.

Free Weights Versus Machines

There has been an ongoing debate regarding free weights versus machines for strength training. While each can help you build strength, there are definite pros and cons for each. The following can help you determine what form of strength equipment is best for your needs.


The most important component in any strength-training program is safety. If you are new to strength training or if you are working out alone, variable resistance machines are the best bet. While machines can be a viable option for serious weight training, they are best for novice, senior and recreational athletes.

For rehabilitating injured athletes, variable resistance machines are preferred. They provide a more controlled motion and specifically isolate certain muscle groups. Machines also allow you to track progress and provide objective feedback while increasing the protective participation of the healthy limb or muscle group.

Free Weights

Research has shown that free weights promote quicker strength gains, and they require more balance and coordination than do the weight machines. Free weights recruit more muscle groups than variable resistance machines (which tend to only isolate specific muscles).

Free weights are also more versatile than machines, because they allow for more variations in range of motion. Free weights require balance and tend to promote more activity of the joint stabilizer muscles.

Finally, they are considerably less expensive than most of the machines on the market. You can perform a complete strength training routine with a few dumbbells and a little imagination.
However, free weights require the help of a spotter and result in more injuries than machines. Careful instruction and training is necessary to master the art of free weight lifting.

Incorporating Free Weights and Machines

An ideal training program may incorporate both free weights and machines on alternating training days. In order to get the most from both muscle-strength gains and joint stability, you can focus on free weights for some exercises and machines for others.

You should use the strength training equipment that suits your training needs and is safe and convenient.

Weight Loss Encouragement

We all want our loved ones to live long, healthy lives. So, what do you do to help a spouse who is not exercising?

Stop telling the truth! Do not tell your spouse that people who don't exercise have twice the risk of heart disease as moderately active ones or that not being active ranks right up there with smoking as a health risk. Do not tell your spouse that experts attribute 250,000 deaths each year to lack of regular physical exercise. Negatives and threats do not motivate.

Humans work on the pleasure principle. Things that feel good attract; things that do not (like criticism and scary statistics) repel. You cannot make another person change. They have to come to see the value of it themselves.

The good news is, many couch potatoes want to get moving. In a survey of 1,000 "exercise slackers" by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers' Association, 59 percent of respondents said they would like to exercise more and 44 percent named a spouse or significant other as the strongest of all motivating forces (including a doctor's advice). Better yet, the people surveyed said the most effective encouragement was having a spouse to work out with.

People who exercise in pairs - whether husbands and wives, friends, or even mothers and daughters - stick with their routines longer than those who exercise alone. The trick is to be more of a friend than a drill sergeant.

Here are some definite dos and don'ts to keep in mind:

  • Try a little tenderness. Instead of nagging your partner to get moving, say, "I love you. Let's take a walk and talk." Instead of harping on how good exercise will make your spouse feel, talk about how good it makes you feel.
  • Start small and make it fun. You want your spouse to develop a habit not prepare for the Olympics. Too much, too soon can lead to soreness and injury. Remember, 30 minutes of moving around everyday (walking, working in your garden, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc.) is all it takes to meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines for physical activity.
  • Don't show off. If your spouse would like to work out with you, do the walking or biking at his or her pace, not yours. The one who is getting started can be intimidated, if the other one is a real exerciser. You might want to look for a new, shared activity that puts the two of you on equal ground. Take up dancing or roller-skating - anything both of you can approach as novices.
  • Invest your time. If you are serious about helping out, be prepared to devote more than your own workout time to a plan. Do not scoff at the first sign of backsliding. Understand relapses are common. The worst thing you can do is make your spouse feel guilty about slipping up. When a person feels guilty, he or she will resume old habits to cope.

Your spouse may take months to establish a routine, and you need to hang in there until that happens. The benefits, like your marriage, will last a lifetime.

Starting An Exercise Program

If you have not been physically active and you are starting a regular workout program, it is important to keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Talk with your doctor. Especially if you have been inactive for the past few months, are overweight, over age 40 or have a chronic health problem such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney disease.
  • Start slowly. Gradually increase the length and the intensity of your workout. Begin by warming up for five to 10 minutes, and end your workout with a similar cool-down period of stretching and low-level exercise.
  • For the first couple of weeks, limit your weekly exercise program to three 10- to 15-minute sessions. After several weeks of conditioning, increase to 20 or 30 minutes. However, aerobic exercises should never be too much of a strain. You should be able to talk to a friend without huffing and puffing for air. Exercise within your target heart rate (THR) range. To roughly estimate that range, subtract your age from 220 then multiply that answer by 60 percent (.6) and 80 percent (.8). Your pulse rate should stay within that beats-per-minute range. Better yet, have an exercise test to more accurately define your target heart range.
  • If you feel pain, stop. Pain is your body's way of telling you something is wrong. If you have chest or muscle pain, nausea, dizziness or abnormal shortness of breath, stop exercising at once.
  • Choose activities you enjoy. You are more likely to do them on a regular basis.
  • Do aerobic exercises three to five times a week. The major focus of a well-balanced fitness program is aerobic exercise - a rhythmic workout that increases your heart rate and breathing for at least 20 consecutive minutes. Such exercise includes cycling, jogging, rowing, walking, dancing or skipping rope.
  • Stick with your program. While you get some immediate benefits, the real gains come when you make fitness a regular part of your lifestyle. The effects are quickly lost in a matter of weeks, if you stop.

Fitting Exercise Into Your Life

Increased physical activity has been associated with an increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Physical activity produces overall physical, psychological and social benefits. Inactive children are likely to become inactive adults. Physical activity helps with:

  • Controlling weight.
  • Reducing blood pressure.
  • Raising HDL ("good") cholesterol.
  • Reducing the risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer.
  • Improved psychological well-being, including gaining more self-confidence and higher self-esteem.

Keeping Kids Active

Children have a natural love of playing hard, but without encouragement, they may opt to sit around watching television or playing video games. Here are some ways to keep your kids active.

Set a Good Example

If you want an active child, be active yourself. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and park the car farther away from stores. Never make exercise seem like a punishment or a chore. Find fun activities the whole family can do together, such as:

  • Swimming.
  • Nature hikes.
  • Cycling.
  • Canoeing.
  • Walks with the family dog.
  • Tennis.
  • Snorkeling.
  • Ice skating.
  • Soccer.
  • Running.
  • In-line skating.
  • Basketball.

Promote Activity Not Exercise

Children do not have to be in sports or take dance classes to be active. Many non-competitive activities are available for a child who is not interested in organized sports. The key is to find things your child likes to do. For instance, if your child is artistically inclined, go on a nature hike to collect leaves and rocks that can be used to make a collage. If your child likes to climb, head for the nearest neighborhood jungle gym or climbing wall. If your child likes to read, walk or bike to the neighborhood library for a book.