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The Power of One Small Step and Heartbeat
Q: Chuck, as the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong became an icon of courage. I still could see that bravery shining through when he was willing to have quadruple bypass heart surgery at 82 years of age. Any lessons from that first lunar astronaut's life? — Roy J., Washington
A: Neil Armstrong modeled courage. He exemplified the adventurous human spirit. He epitomized the power of one small step.
Armstrong said once, "I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul. ... We're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream."
Armstrong lived out those words again back on Aug. 9. Just days after his 82nd birthday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Armstrong was recovering well after bypass surgery for four coronary artery blockages. Though complications increase with age, Armstrong faced his fears and believed instead in the normally high bypass surgery success rates of more than 98 percent.
Unfortunately, even the best and most fit succumb to mortality, and Armstrong died Aug. 25 from complications from his surgery.
Jeanna Bryner, managing editor of LiveScience, recently explained: "Because bypass operations are a type of open-heart surgery they come with risks. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common complications during or following coronary bypass surgery are bleeding and arrhythmias (heart rhythm irregularities). If a blood clot breaks loose soon after surgery, there is also a risk of a heart attack, though this complication is less common. Other less common risks include: kidney failure, infections of the surgery wound, temporary memory loss or muddled thinking, and stroke."
Cardiovascular disease, which includes strokes and coronary artery disease (the most common types), remains the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2008 alone, more than 616,000 adults died of heart disease — meaning it accounted for almost 1 in 4 adult deaths. And for those who survive, its aftermath is a major cause of disability.
Moreover, in a brand-new study of 12,000 men and women in the United States, researchers discovered that people with normal weights who have central obesity (excessive stomach fat) are at roughly three times greater risk of dying from heart disease and two times greater risk of dying from any cause, as reported by U.S. News & World Report.
Lead researcher Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, explained that "a healthy diet and exercise are the way to treat this problem.
The Mayo Clinic gives "5 medication-free strategies to help prevent heart disease":
—"Don't smoke or use tobacco. ...
—"...Try getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. ...
—"Eat a heart-healthy diet," including "foods that are low in fat, cholesterol and salt." The diet should include lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, beans and fish that have a lot of omega-3 fatty acid, such as salmon.
—"Maintain a healthy weight. ...
—"Get regular health screenings," including checks of blood pressure, cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL and triglycerides), blood glucose (sugar) and balanced nutrients.
Also, check out Dr. Oz's online "28-Day Heart Disease Prevention Plan."
Following the preceding advice can reduce not only your risks of cardiovascular disease but also your overall health costs. The CDC reported that in 2010, coronary heart disease alone was projected to cost $108.9 billion in the U.S., which includes health care services, medications and lost productivity.
In addition, being heart-healthy even can lower your physiological age. As Dr. Jeffrey Everett, a cardiothoracic surgeon at The University of Tennessee Medical Center, told LiveScience in an email, "'physiologic' age, meaning how well one's overall health is, (is) much more important than numeric age."
LiveScience explained that the fist-sized 10 ounces of cardiac muscle we call our heart can pump blood to every cell in our body in a single minute. In a single day, 2,000 gallons of oxygen-filled blood is circulated through 60,000 miles of blood vessels via about 100,000 heartbeats. Being such a central and critical organ, it deserves our utmost respect and care.
Neil Armstrong once said tongue-in-cheek, "I believe that every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don't intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises."
But the fact is every astronaut has to be in impeccable shape, and we would be wise to follow their fitness example.
For a more holistic medical approach, my wife, Gena, and I recommend Sierra Integrative Medical Center (http://www.SierraIntegrative.com), in Reno, Nev. The people there are pioneers in integrative medicine. They blend the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative therapies.
Write to Chuck Norris (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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