Within each and every one of us lies a great potential that longs to be set free. Si Ja, Say Yes to Better Life and Death is not only an introduction to health literacy and meditation. It is an invitation to develop your potential and full humanness, and become all that you are capable of being. It is the road to self-actualization, where a life of realized dreams and wonder is waiting, free from cardiovascular disease, (CVD). Annelie
""An utterly appealing and easy-to-read guide to healthy living. Annelie makes you feel as if she's right by your side – knowing your struggles because she's been there, and nudging you as your kindest friend might to stay on track. Her view of meditation and mindfulness as critical components to negotiate both life and death is an invaluable addition to the movement toward living healthier lives in America.""
- JEFF OURVAN,
author of The Star Spangled Buddhist
Explore the full landscape of health and self-actualization with Annelie Holmene Pelaez, an experienced intensive care nurse and meditation specialist, as your guide. In Si Ja, Say Yes to Better Life and Death, Annelie describes her personal encounters with both family and her patients, while examining how we can become healthy and fulfilled. She teaches the use of meditation as a tool to vitality and self-discovery. This book awakens the knowledge that health and excitement should proliferate at any age, even up into your 80s or 90s. This book also tackles head on the reality of death but sets forth a new and encouraging perspective by which we can alleviate end-of-life fears by living well in each precious moment with which we're graced. Discover through health literacy your inner dreams and the treasure that you already are!"
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Si Ja, Say Yes to Better Life and Death
An Introduction to Health Literacy & Meditation
By Annelie Holmene Pelaez
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Annelie Holmene Pelaez
All rights reserved.
Everyone Wants to Be Healthy and Happy
I often watch people die. There's nothing terrible about that — when someone is old and sick, death can be a welcomed relief. In such cases, the time is right. But it is not right when they die before their due time, before they've fully lived their lives. Dying too early and unnecessarily from cardiovascular disease (CVD) is sad to witness. In fact, it's devastating. CVD is a thief that often steals the quality and quantity of human lives. This vicious robber is sneaky and insidious and is responsible in the United States for one death every forty seconds.
And even before premature death, CVD causes suffering and debilitation. It destroys families and chokes potential and creativity. CVD prevents people from living full, healthy, and happy lives. It thwarts them from living their dreams. Who, in their imaginations, ever saw themselves feeling sick and tired, unable to develop and grow into the kind of person they wanted to be? We're supposed to be happy. Having the health necessary to build a great life, day by day, is a birthright. But CVD has a way of putting sticks in our wheels. It prevents the good life from developing. After years of CVD being the leading cause of death in America, we now have enough knowledge to knock out this killer disease. I will show you how.
I am a critical-care nurse. To be able to serve others is a privilege. Spending my working hours in the intensive care unit, I take care of some of the sickest people in the hospital. At times I meet patients and their families in their most vulnerable state: ill, sad, and scared. But it's wonderful to be able to help them, something I gladly do. It's my calling.
The word calling connotes something holy. Yet, to tell the truth, oftentimes I don't feel holy at all — at times all I really want to do is scream. Feeling totally frustrated, I want to walk up to the patient's bed, rip off the sheets, and scream at the top of my lungs, "Stop it! Stop hurting yourself! Get the hell out of here — you don't have to be here. Go home, Mr. X. Play with your grandson, take the dog for a walk, and inish the novel you're writing. And you, Miss Y — you always wanted to learn to dance. Sign up for lessons! What about you, Mr. Z, over in the next bed? The painting you're working on isn't done yet. Your daughter is getting married next week. Get out of here! Oh, and you, John — I see you on the stretcher down the hall. What about the cabin you're supposed to build on the land you bought ten years ago? You've been waiting for the right time. The right time is here. Better building dreams than wasting time in a hospital. All of you go home now!"
These are the cardiovascular patients, whose hospital admissions could have been prevented. But they don't know that, and they don't know how to stay out of the hospital. The average American is health illiterate. This means we don't understand how to protect our own health. It's not that we haven't been given information on how to do so, but we don't understand exactly what to do. We get pieces of information but not the full story. We don't understand the significance of the information and how it affects the body.
I can't possibly blame my patients for being sick — so, of course, I don't scream.
Cardiovascular disease is exactly what the name indicates, diseases of the heart and the vascular system — the blood vessels. This is a process, most often caused by atherosclerosis, the result of plaque deposits and damage to the inner lining of medium- and larger-size arteries.
Nobody is exactly sure what causes atherosclerosis, but it's believed to be accelerated by risk factors that damage the blood vessels, the intima — the innermost layers of the arteries. Major risk factors for atherosclerosis are smoking and the Three H's: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Stress is also bad.
When we smoke or have any of these risk factors, damage occurs to the inner walls of our blood vessels. When such damage is caused, it's as if the police in the body rush to the scene and try to patch up the mess. This is the body's way of healing. As a result, plaque builds up in the areas of arteries and veins that were damaged, just like how spackling ills cracks in a wall. This process causes inflammation.
Plaque is made up of fat, calcium, white blood cells, and other particles in the blood. The process starts when we're young. Small changes in the walls of the arteries are noted early in life. They are a natural result of simply living, eating, and growing. By the time a child enters his or her teens, notable fatty streaks can already be found. But the rate of atherosclerosis is accelerated and worsened by our lifestyle habits.
As time goes by, plaque formations build up, leading to a narrowing and hardening of the arteries. This process reduces the blood low to the heart, brain, legs, and crucial organs. Sometimes a piece of the plaque breaks off. This little piece is carried away in the bloodstream and can get stuck. If it blocks an artery leading to the heart, we can suffer a heart attack, and if it plugs an artery leading to the brain, we can have a brain attack — more commonly known as a stroke.
How and why do these events happen? Essentially, the forerunners to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar (resulting in diabetes) are overeating unhealthy foods, gaining too much weight, and not getting enough exercise.
These are all risk factors for CVD. The more risk factors a person has, the more that irritation and damage occurs in the arteries. Ultimately, the more risk factors a person has, the higher is his or her chance of having a heart attack or a brain attack, and even a leg attack, from reduced or no blood low to the affected area.
Atherosclerosis in the arteries feeding the heart can cause coronary artery disease, leading to angina or a heart attack. This may be also called coronary heart disease. Often these two terms are used interchangeably. Others may say that coronary artery disease is before the coronary heart disease. It depends on the doctor and it depends on the literature. Atherosclerosis in the arteries leading to the brain, can cause a TIA or stroke, is called cerebrovascular disease. And atherosclerosis in the arteries leading to the extremities, mostly the legs, is called peripheral arterial disease. The latter can result in severe pain, debilitation, and amputation. Technically, peripheral artery disease is often considered peripheral vascular disease PVD, but out of simplicity I place them all under the umbrella of CVD.
According to year 2010 statistics, more than 2,150 Americans die of CVD each and every day. And among those who died of CVD in 2010, about 150,000 people were less than sixty-five years old.
Everybody wants to be healthy and happy. This means being in physical, emotional, and spiritual balance, while having our needs met. Besides having the body in working order, we want to fulfill our creative and personal desires. Having a balance between the duties that we must do and the activities that we want to do is vital to a healthy lifestyle. We're all born with special abilities and talents, something that we love to do. These special abilities should be accessed and enjoyed before we leave this world. There are unique aspects within all of us that set us apart from the other seven billion people with whom we share the earth. Discovering, developing, and sharing these best aspects of ourselves are the tickets to living the life of our dreams.
But we can't live the life of our dreams if we're sick. And we absolutely cannot do it if we're dead. Accordingly, being healthy and feeling good are leading criteria for living the good life.
Although health means different things to different people, depending on age and background, finding our own personal comfort level is what matters most. This means finding a place in life where we can thrive and be satisfied.
Nobody's looking for perfect health, because it's nearly impossible to find. Very few of us eat all the right foods all the time. We don't need to have textbook-perfect body weight, blood pressure, and laboratory results. Neither do we need to run to the gym every day. But we must do what it takes to be healthy enough and happy enough to live our best lives. The choices we make during our waking hours make all the difference.
Many people live with constant lethargy. They feel hopeless, helpless, and unable to manage their daily activities because their physical bodies are out of balance. When we don't feel good, the emotional and spiritual parts of us are not up to par either. We have only one shot at making our lives meaningful and worthwhile. What matters is that we feel well enough to meet each day with excitement, having enough of the stuff of which our dreams are made.
Good health allows us to live from the perspective of our better, greater selves, where love and peace reside. If we don't love ourselves, we can't possibly love anybody else. We can't give what we don't have. Still, once we initiate the virtuous cycle of good health and loving others, both our health and our capacity to love continue to deepen and grow. In sharing our love and sharing our talents, we develop into healthier and better human beings. Then we don't just improve our own lives but we also improve the lives of our families, our communities, and our nation.
Why are so many of us getting in the way of our own personal development? Why do we let unhealthy lifestyles make us sick and hold us back from living the wonderful life we envision and want? One of the answers is unawareness. We don't really know what's going on in our bodies. Oftentimes we don't understand the connection between physical, emotional, and spiritual health. We may think we know certain facts, but we either don't really understand the connections or refuse to acknowledge them. If we did, then cardiovascular disease would not be the leading cause of death in America.
How do we learn what it takes to become the hero of our own rescue? How can we stop ourselves from falling into the illness trap by taking the right steps to good health? Studies show that most people in America are health illiterate. That means we don't have enough knowledge to manage our own health. In fact, some studies have shown that close to eight out of ten adults have problems using available information to deal with their own health needs. They simply don't know or understand what to do in order to prevent and manage common ailments like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Such unawareness often leads to out-of-control illness. And what we don't know, we can't act on or do anything about. So we become sick. And sometimes we die before our time. What we don't know is literally killing us. Ignorance is not bliss — it's a disaster.
Among those sixty-five and older, almost twice as many visits are made to the doctor's of ice, compared to adults ages forty-five to sixty-five. Also, among the sixty-five-plus group, an estimated 75 percent of people don't understand the information given to them regarding prescribed medications. It's a misconception to assume that it's normal to have poor health in the footsteps of increasing age. We have more control of our health than many of us may think. Studies show that older people who engage in healthy lifestyles do not die from heart disease, and many live well into their nineties. We can be older and still be healthy, productive, creative, and independent.
We can make simple choices that will keep us off the illness and death statistics lists. Even though you may currently have problems, and are suffering from cardiovascular disease, you can definitely become better. You can learn to improve your own health. The side effects of being healthier are that we become more of who we are and we become better at who we are. And as long as there's life, there's hope. It's never too late to become what we could have been.
Sometime around 1998, I started to notice a common trend among patients coming into intensive care. Regardless of their admitting diagnosis — whether heart attack, cancer, stroke, sepsis, respiratory distress, or colon problems — they shared one or more common characteristics. Smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and/or diabetes were a part of their past medical histories. Hmm, this is like a syndrome, I remember thinking. The observation took hold. I started to pay attention and knew it was real.
Around the same time, my nursing supervisor, Mary B. Perry, retired. With extensive experience in cardiology, research, and teaching, she'd had a wonderful in luence on the staff. Before leaving, Mary gave me a book, a national bestseller called The New Good Fat Bad Fat: Lower Your Cholesterol and Reduce Your Odds of a Heart Attack, by William P. Castelli, MD, and Glen C. Grif in, MD.
It took a while before I opened it. But when I did, it was a life-changing experience. As I started reading, I noticed to my amazement that the hunch I had had about my patients sharing a common syndrome was con irmed. I could not believe it. Wow, I thought, here it is, in black on white, a description of my patients' syndrome. The authors called it the "Deadly Syndrome X."
Sure enough, that term was used to describe a profile including the presence of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low levels of good blood cholesterol, and high levels of triglycerides. Also part of the syndrome, now typically called the metabolic syndrome, was central or midline obesity. We're considered to have metabolic syndrome if we have three or more of these factors. Automatically, we then become at higher risk for CVD. The message from these two cardiologists was that if we stop smoking, eat better, and do some exercise, we can better control our blood pressure, our cholesterol levels, and our blood sugar levels. These things provide us with a better handle on our health, keeping us free from symptomatic CVD. Here, for me, was documentary proof that many of the problems patients in ICU are being treated for are caused by their daily habits.
Deep with in my being, something stirred. A sense of hope and excitement was born. I wanted to help these patients. I wanted to help everybody. Surely, if I could raise people's awareness about the warning signs of cardiovascular disease and their prevention, I could help to save many lives. Following the advice of the cardiologists, I might even save my own.
Despite family histories of stroke and heart disease, which, along with many, many others, I share, we don't have to become victims of this ugly disease. We don't have to die before our times. By choice, we can live better and we can live longer. Our lives can instead be dominated by all the good things that grow out of excellent health, like happiness and an extraordinary sense of well being.
Based on my Norwegian upbringing, extensive study of CVD, knowledge of meditation, personal experience, and nursing observations, I will lead you to the fountain of health and happiness. And do you know what? It's easy. If I could do it, you can do it too.CHAPTER 2
The Power to Make Ourselves Better
Early Years in Norway
When I was five years old, I had a tonsillectomy. The surgery took place in a small community hospital in Larvik, Norway, where I was born and grew up. One night during my hospital stay, a little boy in the same room was crying for his mom. He must have been about three years old. He cried and cried, yet nobody came to see him. After a while, I got up, picked up the kid, and somehow managed to bring him into my bed. I held him close and knew that I soothed his fears. As his cries subsided, he relaxed and started sucking his thumb. I started sucking mine too. Suddenly, a very stern nurse came into the room, took the boy, and put him back in his crib.
This hospital experience still lingers in my memory, along with the smell of ether. And I distinctly remember the taste of drinking lukewarm milk from a stainless steel cup. But mostly I remember that it was here, in the still of this early childhood night, that I first felt a desire to help another person.
Excerpted from Si Ja, Say Yes to Better Life and Death by Annelie Holmene Pelaez. Copyright © 2015 Annelie Holmene Pelaez. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Everyone Wants to Be Healthy and Happy, 1,
Chapter 2 The Power to Make Ourselves Better, 13,
Chapter 3 Let's Go on a Date!, 29,
Chapter 4 The Balancing Act, 45,
Chapter 5 Physiological Needs: Oxygen, 59,
Chapter 6 Physiological Needs: Food and Water, 79,
Chapter 7 Safety Needs: The Heart of the Matter, 119,
Chapter 8 Love and Belonging Needs, 161,
Chapter 9 Self-Esteem Needs, 179,
Chapter 10 About Meditation, 195,
Chapter 11 Stepping into the Dream with Meditation, 209,
Chapter 12 The Practice, 225,
Chapter 13 Self-Actualization, 251,
Chapter 14 On Death and Dying, 275,
Sample Health Literacy Fact Sheet, 292,
Resources and Recommended Reading, 294,