In February we celebrate Black History Month and American Heart Month. In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous speech, “I Have a Dream” where he cried out for freedom and equality for all of mankind, thus raising social consciousness to the need for change. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading killer of all Americans. The tragedy of this statistic is that the leading causes of heart disease are easily preventable.

I, too, have a dream… that not only will there be freedom and equality across the land, but that we will also be healthy enough to enjoy it!

It seems like just about every week we hear the sad story of a life lost to heart disease. It seems like just yesterday I heard the news that actor James Gandolfini, most famous for his role as Tony Soprano, died from a heart attack. Or what about the shocking reports of young athletes, like Jon Walters from USC, in seemingly optimal health, dying from the same fate. Research by the CDC shows that less than 0.7% of heart disease fatalities are due to congenital defects. So what is responsible for the other 99.3% ???

DIET AND EXERCISE
No two words strike more fear and yet, at the same time, ambivalence than DIET and EXERCISE. Research shows time and again that diet and exercise are the primary factors involved in heart disease, not to mention most other chronic health conditions. And diet and exercise are completely in our control! The simple truth is by just making some small changes in our daily routines we can virtually eliminate 99.3% of the causes of heart disease.

DIET REALLY ISN’T JUST ANOTHER 4-LETTER WORD

I, like most people, thought I knew what I should be eating and what I should be avoiding. And, like most people, I wasn’t very good at following my own advice. That was until I discovered the 28 Days To Health program. Over the course of four weeks I learned how food really affects my body and how to make healthy substitutions for some of my previous unhealthy choices. I still eat, and I eat well, but by simply making a choice to eat better I was able to shed 50 pounds over 6 months and my cholesterol and blood pressure dropped.

One of the key changes I made was to add fish oil to my diet. Fish oil contains Omega-3s, which have consistently been shown to be one of the most important supplements for the heart because of their anti-inflammatory agents. We know that inflammation is a common pathway for many diseases, including heart disease. Several studies report that regularly taking 1 to 3 grams of fish oil daily — containing equal parts of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) — reduces the risk of heart rhythm problems, heart attack, and sudden death.

Recent research shows that taking Omega-3s daily also appears to be a safer alternative to, and is as effective as, NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin) for dealing with acute and chronic nonspecific neck and back pain! If you’re not a fan of fish oil, 28 Days To Health has one that tastes like lemon custard and has NO fish aftertaste.

EXERCISE… NOT JUST FOR THE SUMMER

When winter blows in, don’t pull the blankets over your head and go back to sleep! Suit up to head out for an outdoor winter adventure! The American Heart Association recommends that everyone get 30 minutes of heart healthy exercise most days of the week—even during winter—to help prevent heart disease.

According to the AHA, exercising in cooler weather has some distinct advantages over working out in the warmer weather. For one, you don’t have heat and humidity to deal with. In fact, winter’s chill can make you feel awake and invigorated. Not only that, you can work out harder in the cold weather—which means you burn even more calories. Heading outside in the winter is also a great way to take in the sunlight during those shorter winter days. Not only does light dramatically improve many people’s moods, it also helps you get the vitamin D your body needs.

The AHA encourages walking as a primary heart healthy activity since people are more likely to stick with walking than any other exercise. Why walking? It’s efficient. Just 30 minutes of walking a day can improve your circulation, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, and help you lose weight. It’s free, simple and convenient. The only thing you need to start is a pair of supportive walking shoes. Just step outside. Run errands, walk the dog, take a lunchtime walk, catch up with friends or spend time with your significant other during an evening walk, or bundle up your kids and walk as a family. There are dozens of ways to fit in bursts of walking this season. And it’s customizable. By changing up the time, distance, pace and route, you can create the right walking program for you.

Above all, appreciate the season. Try a winter activity, such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or ice-skating with family and friends. Take 30 minutes for your heart this winter!

A CHIROPRACTIC CHECKUP TODAY KEEPS HEART DISEASE AWAY

A University of Chicago research study revealed that specific upper cervical adjustments could significantly lower high blood pressure. This procedure has the effect of not one, but two blood pressure medications given in combination, without side effects or problems. In the study, X-rays showed that specific upper cervical adjustments realigned the Atlas vertebra — the doughnut-like bone at the very top of the spine — with the spine in the treated patients, but not in the sham-treated patients. Compared to the sham-treated patients, those who got the real procedure saw an average 14-point drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure count), and an average 8-point greater drop in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom blood pressure number).

What does adjusting the Atlas have to do with high blood pressure? Injury to the Atlas vertebra can affect blood flow in the arteries at the base of the skull. A misaligned Atlas triggers release of signals that make the arteries in the body contract, thus increasing pressure and making the heart work harder. Just above the Atlas are two centers in the brain that control all the muscles of the body. If these centers are affected by an Atlas misalignment, it does not immediately cause pain, but it will affect all the muscles of the body causing postural imbalances.

WILL YOU SHARE MY DREAM?

We are two months into 2014. There is still plenty of time to make this a more tolerant and healthier new year. If you are committed to making a change, it involves just 3 simple steps.

1. Decide that you are going to be healthy this year
2. Choose to eat better, exercise and get your Atlas checked
3. Share this blog with those you love, and maybe even those you don’t love… yet!

To find out more about the 28 Days To Health program, talk with one of the doctors from The Specific Chiropractic Center, or visit www.thespecific.com. Michael Hurley is our doctor at The Specific Chiropractic Center, Scarborough, ME.