Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pump up your exercise regimen

Recently, I pumped up my exercise regimen big time. The turning point came when Andreas Heuser, who is a membership advisor at Equinox in South Beach, suggested I try one of Philip Gray's classes. Gray is the group fitness manager. So I decided to give his "Group Power" class a shot. (Andreas is a great guy, by the way, so if you're local and want to give Equinox a try, give him a call).

Not knowing what to expect, I wandered into the main studio --and nearly wandered right back out! The class members were busy hauling out equipment -- step aerobic platforms, dumbbells, barbells, and the like. Now, I'm accustomed to doing these activities separately, but in tandem? Barbells? I don't think so.

I decided to stick it out and, within a few weeks, I was shocked to find myself doing kicks on the step platform with a barbell resting on my shoulders. In fact, I was doing squats and kicks with the rest of the class, most of who are considerable younger than me.

I was also surprised to learn that classes like these, which combine cardio and weights, are in the forefront, not only for younger people, but older folks as well. For instance, a New York Times article, which focuses on a 91-year-old track star, suggests that most active older people are actually underexercising, not the reverse!

This was certainly the case with me. Now I'm yakking all my friend's ears off about this, especially after one of Andreas's colleagues looked at me in amazement one day, when I told him I was addicted to Gray's "Group Power" class. "I couldn't even get through half of that," he wailed. Yep, I'm definitely addicted.


More info: Equinox South Beach

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Celebrate a heart-happy Thanksgiving

If you are looking for a posting on how to eat heart healthy at the Thanksgiving table, you won't find one here. I am a devout believer in enjoying this holiday season to the utmost and I will tell you why.

For some 20 years, ever since I started writing about how women could protect themselves against heart disease, studies have shown that women (and men!) who are socially isolated run a higher risk of heart disease.

The reasons for this findings vary. Some believe it is that, when we are socially isolated, we are more prone to depression, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Other researchers believe that, when we are lonely, we are more likely to indulge in non-heart healthy activities.  Some studies even show that loneliness affects how our brain functions!

Holidays like Thanksgiving make us pause in our daily lives to join in with others, no matter whether we are with family, with friends, or perhaps volunteering at a soup kitchen or community center to make the holiday happier for others.

No matter what, reflect on the fact that you are not only enjoying good food, you are enjoying companionship. And that will make your heart happy.

Now please pass the pumpkin pie!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Welcome, Barbra Streisand, we're happy to have you here where you belong

The fight to save women from heart disease gained another voice this week and what a voice it was! You can now add songbird Barbra Streisand to the battle.

In her Huffington Post column, Streisand writes about how shocked she was to learn that heart disease is the Number One killer of American women. This doesn't shock me, though. I've been on this stump for years, ever since undergoing open-heart surgery and co-authoring "The Women's Heart Book." Bernadette Healy, then the director of the National Institutes of Health, wrote our forward. As Barbra Streisand noted, she is one of the pioneers in the field.

Since then, great strides have been made in raising awareness. When I began my first book, I could not even get accurate statistics on heart disease in women, because the American Heart Association did not make them readily available. Apparently, no one had asked before. Now, the AHA posts these numbers prominently each year, and sponsors major initiatives, like the "Go Red for Women" campaign. New organizations joined the battle, including WomenHeart, Sister to Sister and the Women's Heart Foundation. The Women's Heart Foundation sponsors Women's Heart Week (Feb. 1-7) and I established  National Women's Heart Health Day, observed each Feb. 1.

As Streisand writes, though, there is still much to do. Surveys consistently show that most women remain oblivious to the threat of heart disease. As long as this is the case, they won't be motivated to change their lifestyle, save their hearts, and save their lives.

So welcome to the charge, Barbra! Sing out, Sister, sing out!