You Have High Blood Pressure

It is a phrase people in the United States hear all too often, “You have high blood pressure.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 75 million adults in the US, approximately 1/3 of the population, have high blood pressure. Another 1/3 has what physicians call prehypertension, numbers higher than normal but which have yet to reach official high blood pressure (HBP). Additionally, the CDC says over 1,000 deaths occur in the US each day which are attributable to HBP and that we, as a nation, spend well over $48 billion dollars each year on this problem.

Like carrying too much weight, having high blood pressure (or almost having high blood pressure) has become the norm. Most of us will to have to deal with the effects of HBP unless we do something about it.

But isn’t HBP going to occur anyway as we age, you might ask? The answer is no, it doesn’t always have to be that way. Scientists looked for a culture which ate well and exercised. The people studied lived in a remote area and did not have modern electrical or mechanical conveniences. They had to do things by hand and, because of this, movement (i.e. exercise) was part of their everyday existence.

These people rarely had high blood pressure. In fact, their blood pressure often lowered as they aged!

So, high blood pressure is not inevitable. But with our modern lifestyle of convenience most people will deal with HPB. We all know we must eat right and exercise in order to keep blood pressure normal but who has time for that?

I hope you do. Just taking a pill does not really fix the problem very well and those pills often come with side effects. The side effects are such that doctors report a great deal of noncompliance in taking the medication because having high blood pressure doesn’t make us feel as bad as the pills do. You probably already know that HBP is referred to as “The Silent Killer” because we do not often feel poorly because of high blood pressure.

I struggle with this myself. For years my blood pressure was perfect. There was never an issue. I ate well, almost all vegetables, whole grains, fruits and nuts and seeds. I exercised, much of that time I rode a recumbent bicycle many miles four or five days a week.

But then my life circumstances changed and I moved from Texas to Illinois. There are many days (months even) where I have no desire to ride my bike out in the cold weather of the North Shore of Chicago. And while I continued to eat well, my blood pressure started to rise. Now I know I must do both in order to keep the pills away and it serves as great motivation for me. There may come a day when I must take some form of HBP medication but that day will not come without a fight.

There are other things we can do to naturally lower our blood pressure. I have two books that might be of interest. The first is called, Thirty Days to Natural Blood Pressure Control. It is a very interesting and helpful book based on science. However, the authors are committed Christians and a portion of the book talks about how The Beatitudes of Jesus can be used for blood pressure control. I found this fascinating but other may not. So, I’ve also provided the Mayo Clinic’s, 5 Steps to Controlling High Blood Pressure (2nd Edition). This book has much of the same science and strategies but without the religious overtones.

If you have high blood pressure, you can almost certainly lessen or even eliminate the need for medication by doing some pretty simple things – things you know you should be doing anyway. Yes, it takes effort but the results are very satisfying. I love working with people who change habits which ultimately changes their lives. If you do not have high blood pressure then keep up the good work. One of these books might very well still be good for you to pick up and read. I’ll be rooting for you either way!

Until next time I’m…

Wishing you well,

Russell


Rev. Russell Elleven, DMin, BCC, CWP is a Board Certified Coach and Certified Wellness Practitioner. He helps individuals obtain health and wellbeing through his coaching practice The Minister of Health, LLC and through congregational work as the executive director of The Genesis 1:29 Project.


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Motivation?

What motivates you to lead a healthier life? I’ve often thought about this and it comes up regularly when working with people who are trying to make significant positive behavioral changes.

These days experts cite several things that make up health and wellbeing. The graphic above is from the National Wellness Institute and outlines six dimensions of wellness. I don’t believe any of these dimensions would come as a great surprise to people who think in terms of “wholeness.” But to be well in all six of these dimensions requires, it seems to me, a significant amount of motivation.

Truth be told, the vast majority of us are not well in all six dimensions. Many of us may only be healthy in one or two of these dimensions and, because we rely on our own determination of health, we may may not even be as healthy as we believe (hope?) ourselves to be.

So, what does it take to screw up the courage to attempt a healthier lifestyle?

Some believe our motivation primarily derives from external sources. That is, we are motivated to change because there is something beyond ourselves which creates a desire to do something different. Examples might be that we want to fit into a certain dress or pant size, we want to get a partner off our back, or there is some sort of a reward from an employee health program.

Others think the only way to real change comes from internal motivation. Examples of internal motivation might be the self-knowledge and joy that comes from doing things that are healthy, the desire to see one’s children or grandchildren reach specific milestones in life, or the desire or drive to live the fullest life possible.

I have seen both types of motivation work for people. To me, it is not important where a person’s motivation comes from. What is often most important is whether or not the motivation is sufficient to make lasting behavioral change. I generally attempt to discover a person’s motivation through an exercise which examines their deepest values. Often what a person truly values will be a wonderful indicator of what motivates her (or him).

For most people, health and wellness is something “out there,” it is something beyond in the distance, something they will get around to eventually. If we can take a pill or simply ignore our least healthy dimensions we will be happy enough to just schlep along. We often do not appreciate health until we no longer have it. Yet, once our health is gone it can then be much more difficult to recover.

What is it that you value? What is it that motivates you to “do the right thing” when it comes to health and wellbeing?

I’m interested to hear from you and hope the new year is your best yet. Please use the comments section below.

Until next time I’m…

Wishing you well,

Russell


Rev. Russell Elleven, DMin, BCC, CWP is a Board Certified Coach and Certified Wellness Practitioner. He helps individuals obtain health and wellbeing through his coaching practice The Minister of Health, LLC and through congregational work as the executive director of The Genesis 1:29 Project.


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What The Doctor Told Me…

In my last post I wrote about how staying active with exercise isn’t getting any easier. More specially, how the type of exercise I enjoy most now, interval training, isn’t supposed to get any easier. I also mentioned how one particular physician motivated me more than any other.

The physician is Dr. John McDougall. He is a board certified internist and was one of the earliest to advocate lifestyle change and eating rather than putting people on medication. Of course he will put you on medication if you need it but most of his patients don’t when they eat right and exercise/move.

If you think about it there is not much money in that. If a doctor teaches you to be healthy the “return business” is much lower. Doctors make money when they see you and if there is no reason to see the doctor the revenue flow is greatly diminished.

One of the ways Dr. McDougall makes money is by offering retreats of varying lengths. He is located in Santa Rosa, California and hosts three day and 10 day educational sessions. I went to meet him on a three day retreat a few years ago. I’d read a great deal of his work so didn’t elect for the ten day package but thought it an interesting opportunity to meet the man who, in a very real way, changed my life when he changed the way I thought about health.

Dr. McDougall has a reputation for being, shall we say, “direct” when talking about diet and lifestyle. I think he probably has to be. He is doing medicine a very different way, a way that in some sense can shame other doctors who he holds responsible for doing as much harm as good.

It is in this directness that he said during the retreat I attended, “Healthy people don’t take medicine.” This took me aback initially. Most people in America (about 60%) are taking prescriptions and 15% take five or more drugs daily. That is a lot of sick people!

In my work as a health coach I’ve spoken with plenty of people who use prescriptions to manage some part of their health. Some believe that they no longer have a disease because they are taking pills to manage it. In my experience these are mostly people who take medication for high blood pressure. They often believe they no longer have HBP because the pills reduce their numbers. This isn’t the case. The HPB is still there and the effects are too.

I think because I’ve been gravely ill before, due to two bouts with cancer, being sick is something I want to avoid as long as I possibly can. I remember going in for a colonoscopy a few months ago and the attending nurse was surprised that I took no prescription drugs. “Most people,” she said, “by your age are taking something.” I was pleasantly pleased with myself but I also knew what I’ve done to create this drugless situation. It may have also been the first time I’d heard the phrase “Most people your age…”

There may come a day when I must take medication(s). And, there are good reasons to take some medications. But I will not go quietly into the night. I will eat right, I will exercise and do the other things necessary to make my health a priority.

You can too and, hopefully, you’ll not have to go through two bouts of cancer (or something else horrific) in order to make your health and wellbeing a priority.

Until next time I’m…

Wishing you well,

Russell


Rev. Russell Elleven, DMin, BCC, CWP is a Board Certified Coach and Certified Wellness Practitioner. He helps individuals obtain health and wellbeing through his coaching practice The Minister of Health, LLC and through congregational work as the executive director of The Genesis 1:29 Project.


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This Isn’t Getting Any Easier!

this-isnt-getting-any-easier

I have been exercising a bit differently lately. It is called Interval Training. If you are unfamiliar with interval training this is a definition that may help:

noun
noun: interval training
  1. training in which an athlete alternates between two activities, typically requiring different rates of speed, degrees of effort, etc.

I won’t lie, exercise is one of the things that gives me the most difficulty is my attempt to be a healthy human being. I eat well the vast majority of the time, my mind is in the right place the vast majority of the time. Exercise is more elusive for me and I must be diligent in order to keep up this healthy habit.

While exercise isn’t a great way to lose weight, it is very important to overall wellbeing. I have tried many ways to keep my interest in exercise and the one that I have stuck with the most lately is this “interval training.”

Many believe that with this type of exercise one earns better results in a quicker amount of time. You have a higher return on investment with, what appears to be, less effort. And that, my friends, is pretty cool for someone who struggles to exercise.

At 5:00 am I will walk for a certain amount of time, run (not jog but really run) for a certain amount of time, then repeat, then repeat again, then repeat again, an then one more time. I then end the morning routine with a sprint along one of the roads which leads back to the house. In a relatively short amount of time I get a really good cardio workout and use some muscles too.

I do this interval training on a circular road that is marked for runners/walkers. Because of this, I’m going around in circles which can be kind of boring. Yet, having to watch my time for each of the walks/runs has been holding my interest.

Early on as I tried out this new way of exercise I often thought to myself, “This isn’t getting any easier!” In other exercise attempts in the past it seemed like the more I did something, the easier the effort became. This is not the case in interval training. You do not jog, trying to reach a certain mile marker, you really do run.

What I finally realized is that it wasn’t supposed to get easier. As my lung capacity and “wind” expanded I was able to run further in the same amount of time. While it wasn’t getting any easier, I was actually getting better. And I began to feel the difference.

Health and wellbeing, when you get right down to it, is pretty simple. We all “know” we should eat right. We all “know” we should pay attention to the feelings and emotions of life. We all “know” we should exercise.

Yet, there is a difference between knowing and doing, isn’t there? If we expect it to get easier and it doesn’t – we might be willing to throw in the towel. If, on the other hand, we begin to look at health and wellness through a long-term lens, we may give ourselves an opportunity for more success.

I’ve spoken with a lot of physicians, both as a patient and as a student. I’ve heard them say many things intended to motivated people into better health promoting activities. Only one has really impacted me in a way that stuck.

I’ll share that with you next time. Until then, I’m…

Wishing you well,
Russell


Rev. Russell Elleven, DMin, BCC, CWP is a Board Certified Coach and Certified Wellness Practitioner. He helps individuals obtain health and wellbeing through his coaching practice The Minister of Health, LLC and through congregational work as the executive director of The Genesis 1:29 Project.


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Top 5 Ways Clergy Damage Their Own Health

Growing up I thought clergy members had the best job in the world. They communed with God. They worked with the some of the best people in town. They only worked one day each week.

Today I think differently. Clergy have difficult jobs. Clergy probably have one of the most difficult jobs on the planet. We are expected to wear many different hats. We work all the time. What we learned in theological school, while helpful on some level, did not prepare us in the real work of the congregation. Competing expectations can wreak havoc on our families, those we serve, and eventually our own health.

When our health abandons us the work we do becomes even more difficult. If health deteriorates so too does our ministry. We simply cannot do all we might want if the body is unable or unwilling. The calling, while extraordinary, can also be downright deadly if we do not take care of ourselves.

In working with many members of the clergy, from a wide variety of faith traditions, I have seen some real commonalities in things we do to damage our health. Generally speaking these five things look like this:

1. We Put Others First
This is admirable and even necessary quality for people who serve. But there is also detriment in always putting the needs of others before your own. We believe it is not good to be selfish and, in general, we shouldn’t be. At the same time, if we are not selfish with our health we cheat others in the long run. By not taking care of our own health needs we do not serve at our highest capacity.

2. We Hardly Move
We have all probably heard that sitting is the new smoking. If this is true we are doomed. We sit when we read. We sit when we write. We sit when we counsel. We sit in committee meetings. We sit at table with others in deep discussion and fellowship. We sit a lot and it could very well come back to bite us in the same place we use for cushion. We must move in order to be at our healthiest. We need not be marathon runners but it is important that we get our heart rates up more days of the week than not.

3. We Do Not Care What We Put in Our Bodies
We can get kind of judgy if we see an alcoholic drinking something we know is not good for him (or her). Same goes for the one addicted to other drugs or other behaviors we do not condone or understand. Yet we do something very similar when we eat poorly – which most of us do. We eat for convenience. We eat on the run. We eat whatever is put before us. By doing this we do not feed our bodies and, in the long run (or not so long run), this behavior will hurt us and hurt us badly.

4. We Do Not Honor the Sabbath
As clergy, we no longer participate in worship the way the members of our congregation do. We are unable to receive the message because we have become the messenger. Many times, the reason we became clergy is because we enjoyed worship so much. It is very helpful to our health if we take another day as our Sabbath. However, I have worked with many clergy who are reluctant to do this. We also do not take the vacation time we accrued or the sabbatical we earned. We wonder, What if the congregation does poorly in my absence? Or perhaps the greater fear: What if the congregation does well in my absence? The fact is, we need rest. It is a fundamental requirement for health. If you are not resting often and regularly you will shorten your ministry.

5. We Do Not Practice What We Preach
It is hard to be perfect. I know because I have tried. But it not perfection I think we should seek in our quest for good health. Yet, we need to do much better than what is currently occurring. Most of us could do some pretty simple things in order to be healthier. Most of us are part of faith traditions which explicitly speak of honoring our health and yet we sit, we stress, we eat poorly, and we do not think of our own needs.

These five things set us up for bodily failure. These five things, from my experience, will end a ministry sooner rather than later. These five things can leave our families in a lurch, our congregations without leadership, and our faith abandoned.

It’s time to do something different.

Wishing you well,
Rev. Russell Elleven, DMin, BCC, CWP
Executive Director
The Genesis 1:29 Project

and

The Minister of Health
www.ministerofhealth.org

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