June 22, 2006, Vol. IV Issue 13
Summer is officially here, and the spring meeting season is winding down. This past week Deb Gauldin, Sue Kirby and Jana Stanfield represented The Speak Well Being Group at Spirit of Women’s annual meeting in Dallas, TX. The theme this year was “Our Legacy in Women’s Health: Planning the Future in View of the Past.” I heard back from everyone that it was the biggest and best ever and I was proud to be represented by such talented and devoted speakers as Deb, Sue and Jana.
Meantime, many clients are scurrying to book speakers for their fall events. Schedules are filling up so now is the time to get those dates booked. Hot spring dates in 2007 are booking up, too. First come, first served! Just let us know your needs, and we’ll do our best. We’re here to make life easier for you when it comes to finding just the right speaker for your special event.
During the summer meeting lapse, we’ll take time to introduce you to some speakers we’ve added to our roster, comment on health headlines and other meeting matters. Today, I’m pleased to share heart health speaker, Tracey Conway, who literally died and lived to tell about it.
I’m also delighted to share an article by Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD, regarding the misleading news reports that low fat diets had no benefit in preventing heart disease in women. Elizabeth proves that it pays to consult an expert when it comes to information that just doesn’t add up.
Tracey Conway: DROP DEAD GORGEOUS
“Life has been so much better since I died,” says Tracey Conway.
On Jan. 21, 1995 at 10 in the evening Tracey Conway’s heart stopped beating – completely. She died AND she lived to tell about it. Twenty minutes later, with CPR from a volunteer firefighter, intravenous cardiac drugs and six defibrillator shocks from an automated external defibrillator (AED), a viable heartbeat was restored. She was the victim of sudden cardiac arrest, resulting from a dangerously fast heart arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation.
It wasn’t funny then, but an actress by trade, Tracey knows how to look back and, as a good humorist, find the irony, appreciate her life today and share her story to help others. She was 38 years old, and an actress on a sketch comedy show on national cable network, “I thought I was in the best shape of my life,” she says. “I did step aerobics, I was a non-smokerand I didn’t do drugs.”
They had just spoofed ER. The segment was ironically called, “Almost Alive.” They’d finished the show, stopped the tape and were taking questions from the audience when Tracey collapsed. Everybody laughed . . . until they realized this was the real thing.
There wasn’t a doctor in the house, but there was a young man who knew CPR. He kept her blood flowing until the paramedics arrived. Paramedics shocked her six times and 20 minutes after her collapse, she started breathing again. Nonetheless, Question 24 on the Seattle Fire Department’s Incident Report asks “Patient Condition on Arrival.” There are two response options provided: (1) Alive or (2) Dead. Her report has a big circle around number two.
For an actress, it was the best comeback of her career. She is among the less than 5 percent of people worldwide who currently survive cardiac arrest. She now wears an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) embedded in her chest that is programmed to deliver a lifesaving shock should she again experience ventricular fibrillation, one of the most fatal of all heart arrhythmias.
Tracey had known about her heart condition since graduate school, and was taking medication for it, yet she thought her age, gender and commitment to exercise meant it wasn’t anything too serious.
She calls her keynote, “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” not because she’s vain and thinks she is any kind of beauty queen, but because she feels all women are beautiful in their own ways and every woman is important to those who love her. “Today I’m sharing the lessons in my own experience: that heart arrhythmia and cardiac arrest can threaten the lives of both young people and women, so early awareness is essential to saving lives.”
She says that much of what has changed for her since her experience is her appreciation of life’s priorities, the necessity to partner with her healthcare providers and her responsibility to honor her thoughts and feelings, not to squelch them simply to avoid conflict or uncomfortable situations. “I believe stress-induced adrenaline was definitely a factor in my heart’s short circuiting,” she says.
“The more you know about your risk factors, your family history and your own medical condition, the more you can take control your own health and your life,” Tracey says. Because, as the hair-color folks say, “You’re worth it!’”
The experience has led her to places she never anticipated. “When the Oprah Show called, I thought they were calling about tickets to the show,” she says. “Instead, I had less than two days to get on a plane, and less than 24 hours to welcome a film crew to my home! Appearing on the Oprah Show was a highlight of my career.”
Tracey’s story is also the lead story in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Healthy Living: Heart Disease.
ASK THE EXPERT:
Low-Saturated Fat Diet Still Best for Heart Disease Prevention
There are few black and white issues in nutrition, but one that is solid as a rock is the link between diets high in saturated or trans fats and a high risk for heart disease. This nutrition fact was put to the test recently when the media reported on a large study that found low-fat diets had no benefit in preventing heart disease in women. The study had major flaws and the media was irresponsible in misleading the public into thinking they can return to the steak-n’-potato diets of the past.
The Women’s Health Initiative (Journal of the American Medical Association 1006; 295: 693-695) was a randomized control trial of almost 49,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79-years old. Some were asked to follow their normal diets and others were asked to cut fat by 20% and increase produce intake to five or more servings a day. After six years, the women reported they had dropped fat intake by 8%, with decreases in all fats, including saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. They reported vegetable intake rose only 1 serving a day. These changes had no effect on heart disease incidence, stroke, or even cancer.
What went wrong? First, the dietary advice was decades old. It is well-known that some fats help protect against heart disease. Yet, the women in this study reduced all fats, so they lost the benefits from an increase in monounsaturated fats in nuts, olive oil and avocados. In addition, the women on the low-fat diets ate only slightly less bad fat than the women told to follow their usual diets, which reduced the likelihood of seeing a difference in the two groups’ disease rates.
Second, the women were in their second half of life. Chronic, degenerative diseases have their foundation in the early years and often are slow growing. It is likely that disease processes were well-established before the women entered the study, thus further contributing to the lack of an effect.
Third, the women reported that they cut fat calories by less than half of the target goal of 20%. But, women lie about their food intake. Study after study comparing reported intake to actual intake consistently finds that people under-report their calories (by up to 700 calories a day!) and fats and overestimate their intakes of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It is not likely, but probable, that fat intake dropped by much less than 8% and that cut was too small to show any effect.
Many fatty foods in the American diet are high in artery-clogging saturated and trans-fats, including meats, pizza, pastries, frosted cakes, butter, stick margarine, ice cream, fried foods, commercial snack foods, pies and more. Daily consumption of any of these foods will raise heart disease, and possibly cancer risk in most people. All major health organizations agree from the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society to the Federal Department of Health and Human Services and Agriculture.
When faced with a nutrition issue, always look at where the weight of the evidence lies. When it comes to heart disease, there are thousands of studies, spanning decades of research consistently showing that we should cut saturated and trans fats to no more than 10% of calories. Less is even better.
Reprinted with permission, Nutrition Alert, May/June 2006
Elizabeth Somer is the author of The Ten Habits that Mess Up A Woman’s Diet, Food & Mood and The Origin Diet. Read more about her on our website or call me to check her availability to bring her expertise to your next health-enhancing event.
Mmm…Summertime and the strawberries in Oregon have arrived. Oregon strawberries are small and sweet and oh-so flavorful. The season is short and must be appreciated. Lucky for me, I can walk to a fruit stand for a daily supply. This morning, I re-invented strawberry shortcake, and made strawberry oatmeal. It got rave reviews at the breakfast table. Just pour fresh strawberries over heated oatmeal and top with an ample squirt of light whipped cream. And eat it for breakfast, not dessert! You’ve got whole grains, fruit, and dairy (okay, and a little sugar). For some protein, top it with slivered almonds. Mmmmmm. Breakfast has never tasted so good!
Until next time, take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.