The Prosperous Heartbeat Bank

Okay friends, this is a fun post with some lighthearted existential philosophy. It also talks about sex, so consider yourself warned.

I really do wish everybody peace, love, and health (usually joy, also). People who receive emails, texts, and snail mail from me will all tell you. I also love a cheeky, irreverent expression sometimes, and this one showed up before the New Year:

From The Fuckit List page on Facebook

I shared it immediately with all my friends who would appreciate it, including a brilliant and pragmatic cardiologist. I added ‘etOH [ethanol] and weed in moderation, and the rest–yeah!’

The ensuing email thread between us:

Friend: 😂😆 no orgasms in moderation?!?!

Me: Some things you just cannot get too much of.  No risk.  😉😆

Friend: i’ve never heard a physician say “no risk” – only “low” “moderate” “high” risk. so i’m happy to go with no risk!!!!

Me: Teeheehee / It just occurred to me—YOU are the cardiologist!! IS there a risk?? 😱 / I cannot lead people astray here… / I suppose MI [myocardial infarction–heart attack] during sex does occur, right? / So shit, there is a risk! 😣

Friend: i suppose as a cardiologist, it’s always a risk-benefit ratio. risk is very very low. benefit is likely there every time. plus there’s the added cardiac benefit of ischemic pre-conditioning [training the heart with exercise] in those with significant CAD [coronary artery disesae] wherein you can develop angiogenesis [growth of new blood vessels] and collateral formation [bypass blood flow around blocked arteries] in the context of regular sexual/exercise activity. so it’s a big yes to orgasms!!!!

Me: Omg YYYAAAAAAAYYYYY!!! 💃🏻🎉🥳❤️ / And ENDORPHINS, yes? 😄

Friend: ah, yes, sympathetics. you know there is a hypothesis (totally unproven) that you are born with a certain # of heartbeats and once you use them, your life is over. if that is the case, endorphins, sympathetics and (eek) orgasms are probably no good for us. but again, that hypothesis is totally unproven and the more “exercise” you do, the slower the resting heart rate and the longer (observationally) the life. so probably, all in all, better to stick with the orgasms than to avoid them!!!

Me: Ooooo, fascinating!!  I bet there is some vague, partial and flexible truth to that theory?  Like yes, any given heart has a finite number of future beats left at any given time.  

AND, there are likely many things we can do throughout our lives that give it more or fewer remaining beats—like a bank account that we deposit to and withdraw from… 😜 OH I just LOVE this idea!!

Deposits:

Diet: fiber, healthy fats, lean protein, moderate naturally occurring sugars (Food Rules by Michael Pollan: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants)

Movement: full body, cardio/strength/mobility

SLEEEEEEP OMG 

Stress: wise mind, radical acceptance, inner peace; and FUN!!

Relationships (I would bet anything this is proportionally the DENSEST, highest value heartbeat reserve elevator): love, meaning, connection… 

Of course withdrawls are the opposites of these… I wonder whether bad sleep or toxic relationships are the greatest heartbeat extinguishers?  My money’s on relationships—maybe not even toxic ones—rather the lack of them altogether.  It makes total and complete sense to me that loneliness is a better predictor of mortality than smoking (I think it’s actually phrased that it’s a bigger mortality risk than smoking but I bet it’s a better predictor, too—if you look at the data a certain way?)…

OMG this totally aligns with my framework of the 5 reciprocal domains of health!! 😄 ❤️ ❤️

Ok so my mom told me that her dad told her that we are each born with a finite amount of prosperity in life.  So the idea is to be frugal with spending, consumption, partying etc in your youth, so you have enough to spread out over a longer lifetime.  I do like that idea.  It feels akin to humility and generosity to me…  So I wonder if there can be a pooling effect among one’s tribe—that we all spend/consume/share over a lifetime and extend/improve all of our lives?? 

OH thank you for telling me about this, I will think more (and possibly write) on it!! 😄 xo …And maybe my gong-gong’s theory is also flexible like a bank account, too. 

I think we get to invent it, since it’s all made up to help us feel better about how we choose to live life anyway! 😄

THANK YOU for stimulating such fun thinking tonight! 😄

Ok more soon, big hugs!!! xo

//

All of these thoughts and ideas poured out between us from 4:44 to 7:22pm on 12/28/2022. I’m not sure more writing is required at this point? I thought about doing the math–for each episode of exercise, how many more beats, and does it even out with a resulting lower resting heart rate over a lifetime…? Nah. It was a fun and thought-provoking conversation between two friends which, for me at least, tightened connection and elevated joy. I am definitely heart-healthier for it.

Hope 2023 is off to a peaceful, loving, and healthy start for you all, my friends, if not a moderately buzzed and high, frequently orgasmic, and suddenly wealthy one. 😉

Friendsourcing Motivation

Sunrise AD

Sunrise, Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, Loveland, Colorado. Photo courtesy of Dr. Anne Dixon

Greetings, friends!  How goes it, halfway through January of the New Year?  How are you doing with those resolutions?  I always feel conflicted about announcing such commitments, preferring to call them ‘intentions’ (see here, here, here, and here!).  I’ve read too many articles dismissing resolutions as mindless, unhelpful, and ultimately a waste of energy.  And yet, the start of a new year naturally prompts reflection and renewed motivation for self-improvement, which are good things.

Once again, taking a more nuanced view helps here.  It’s not that resolutions are bad.  It’s that we need to be thoughtful and realistic about them, as the linked article above suggests.  Whatever we call them, commitments to behavior change can lead us to transformation.  But it’s anything but simple or easy!

My post on experimental questions got a boost in views this past week.  I wonder what prompted that?  I wish I knew who was reading it and why, what they think, and what it means to them?  Since that post was published, I have continued to ask my 4 newest questions, of both patients and myself.  The recent traffic on that post parallels the evolution in my own reflections and answers:

In the coming year, what do you see as the biggest threat to your health?

My hedonist impulses, no question:  Ice cream and office sweets, mostly, but also online washi tape sales and paper, clothing, and shoe stores.

What is the biggest asset?

My friends, also no question, my pit crew.  They encourage me, keep me honest, and lend perspective.  They teach me and inspire me.  They hold me up.

One year from now, what do you want to look back and be able to say about what’s important to you?

In January 2021, I want to look back and say that I got fit again, that I regained the exercise discipline I lost in 2019.  I got control of my eating, decreased my sugar intake by at least half.  I put my phone down and was more present with my kids.  I was more intentional and executed better on how I spend my time and energy overall.  I exercised agency over my life better than ever before.

What support (external to yourself) do you already have and/or may still need to recruit, in order to make that vision a reality?

On November 10 when I posted these questions, I honestly had not answered this one yet.  It was harder than I had anticipated.  Since then, as I continue to ask patients, I see that I’m not the only one stymied.  My first response resembled my patients’, something akin to, “Well, I just have to do it.”  We type-A, independent peeps often rely first and foremost on ourselves.  We don’t ask for help.  And even though I have written and spoken ad nauseum about the importance of support, I found it difficult to identify my own need for it.  This is why I have added the ‘external to yourself’ clarification to the question.  Support comes from somewhere or someone else.  And we all do better when we have it.

***

Friendsourcing Motivation

The whole time, the answer was right there in front of me.  The biggest asset to my health is my friends.  We know that social support (sometimes in the form of peer pressure) can be the key to success in behavior change.  Why else would people attend Weight Watchers meetings, or to go AA?  I need a workout buddy and a healthy eating buddy, I realized—I can tap my assets!  Eureka!

Easier said than done, however.  Who should I ask?  What should it look like?  Over a month or so, I worked out my specifications:

  • I need support from friends, not strangers (thus fitness classes will probably not be my jam)
  • I don’t want to be constrained by schedules with my buddies—flexibility is key
  • I need a two-way arrangement—someone who also has a goal that I can support them in
  • The arrangement must be concrete and accountable, but not feel oppressive

Tadaaaaah—Habit Share*!

On our sunrise walks in Loveland last weekend, two friends from LOH and I agreed to be one another’s buddies.  It was perfect—we all wanted the same things; we just needed an easy way to connect.  One of us, the youngest, most tech-savvy one, found the Habit Share app.  It’s free and perfect.  We each define our own goals, and simply share them with each other online.  We receive notifications when our friends check in, and we send messages of encouragement and solidarity.  It’s perfect!  I have already shared the app with patients and other friends, and am now connected to two more friends.  Our habits range from exercise to reading, to flossing.

Holy COW, what a difference!  Just knowing that I’m tracking my goals, and that my friends are seeing and supporting me, it’s been exponentially easier to motivate and execute these seven days than the entire past year.  It’s easy, aesthetically pleasing, costs no money, and connects me with people I love.  It is–wait for it–PERFECT!

I know, I know, it’s only been a week.  Who knows what all of our app screens will look like in another week, a month, or three months from now?  Will we all still be connected and holding each other up in a year?  Who can say?  But what’s the utility of thinking that far ahead?  Yesterday I set the new goal of getting up early once a week to write.  Today I can check it off.  I still have a chance to say no to ice cream, work out, turn off my phone apps by 10pm, and floss!  My friends will know when I do it, and they won’t judge me if I don’t.  It’s all good, and we can all take it one day at a time.

So, what support (external to yourself) do you have, or may still need to recruit, to make your best-self vision a reality?

*I have no financial or other interests in this business.  In fact, I want to contact them to give them feedback about how to make it better, but I cannot find a ‘contact’ page on their website…

November 21:  Cardio Catch-Ups Make Me Better

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Ummm, this may not be my photo!  It was on my phone from 2017 and I can’t remember where it came from–I usually ask friends for permission to use… If it’s yours please claim it!

NaBloPoMo 2019

Is there something you should do but you don’t always want to?

Exercise perhaps, or laundry?  Dishes?  Cleaning and decluttering?

Last year I listened to Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.  It was a fun, relatable, well-researched and –reasoned book on habit formation and change.  I have recommended it to many patients for its myriad practical strategies.  One that particularly resonated with me was the idea of pairing.  Basically if we combine the thing we should-but-don’t-want-to-do with something we like or do-want-to-do, we are more likely to form and strengthen the habit of the ‘sbdwtd’.

In one of those Eureka! moments of instant understanding and integration, I started saving my favorite TV show to watch while doing the interval program on my elliptical.  Thanks to the hubs for positioning the cardio machine right in front of the TV in the basement!  Sadly, The Big Bang Theory has concluded and there are no other 30 minute shows quite so compelling to get me moving.  Thankfully I have my favorite podcast and Liked Songs list on Spotify, so I’m not totally sedentary.  On days when I’m really motivated, I still do the 7 minute workout or a TRX program.

***

Do you wish you could connect more often with friends?

Years ago I remember talking on the phone while unloading and putting away groceries or folding laundry.  My friend was in San Francisco, I in Chicago.  We knew each other’s days off and would just call when we had a moment, and talk if we were free.  Farther back, in college and med school, we could all just hang out at each other’s apartments, pretending to study, but really just eating and talking.  Now we text, which is nice, but it’s not the same.  Somehow it feels harder to get folks on the phone anymore, and even harder to meet in person…  I miss my friends.

I’m getting a little better, though.  Sometimes I make phone dates with people for my commute.  It can be challenging across time zones, but we make it work.  It’s finite and somewhat reliable—I have to spend 30-40 minutes in the car at some point on any given morning and evening on workdays.  I even managed to connect with two Counsel members for pep talks before important meetings recently.

This month my new friend Alex and I started a new connection method, the Cardio Catch-Up.  She lives in DC and has to walk her dog.  I still need to work out, which I usually do in the evenings.  So we arranged a call over exercise tonight.  It was perfect!  I had to commit to a certain time, and my friend held me accountable.  I got on the machine and didn’t even notice the time going by (okay it just went by a lot faster), while we bonded over our LOH learnings, musings on human behavior and tribal dynamics, and our shared progressive values and aspirations for the planet.  I got my workout in, check.  And we both alighted on themes for future blog posts.  Tonight’s nascent idea:  Is the contagion of urgency the best vehicle for motivation?  Who knows where it will lead, into what it will grow, with what it will merge?  Regardless, it was born of an optimal pairing.

***

The Cardio Catch-Up is the perfect multi-win:  Move the body, release stress and tension, connect with another beautiful human, exercise the mind, and inspire the spirit.  Who wants to do it with me next week?