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Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

My Resolutions:
1) Complete my first half ironman distance triathlon -- Vineman 70.3 in July.
2) Run the LA Marathon in 4:30-4:45.
3) Help my 53 year-old father complete his first triathlon.
4) Learn Spanish. Es mui importante en California.
5) Keep up with the cardiology literature.

I think that's enough.
Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Passed!

I just found out that I passed my interventional cardiology board exam!!!

It was a lot of studying, and such a relief.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Training Update



I'm training for the Los Angeles Marathon, my first marathon in six and a half years. Even though I'm a few years older, I'm going to finish faster by training smarter. My goal is to run the marathon in 4:30-4:45. If I can maintain the 10:30 per mile pace from the City of Angels Half Marathon, then I can do it.

Part of my training is running with others, which is something I've never really done before. I've joined the Los Feliz Flyers, a group that does weekly track workouts. The group has all sorts. There are some rather hardcore members, and then there are the "TOG's" -- The Other Group. The TOGs are a little slower than the hardcore group, and we run a total of three miles for a workout. Last week, we did 800 m at 5k pace, then 1200 m at 10k pace, 800, 1200, and 800. It's a good group, not competitive, and I find myself somewhere in the middle of the TOGs pack.

Next, I'm joining a group for my longer runs, the LA Leggers. They have several pace groups and meet early on Saturday mornings. This morning I tried them out for the first time, joining the twenty or so members of the 10:30/mile pace group -- I wasn't sure whether to run with the 11 minute/mile group or the 10:30's, but I think I chose well.

The group's training is modeled after the Galloway program -- they run for 8 minutes, then walk for one minute. We run in a line, two by two, with two group "mentors". It was a nice run, starting near the Santa Monica Pier and heading north to San Vincente Boulevard through Brentwood. I enjoyed it-- it breaks up the monotony of a long run, and it's helpful to be in a group keeping a consistent pace.

Photo from www.kidprintables.com

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Where Does Cholesterol Come From?

Of course it's not real shrimp. But it's tasty and nutritious -- VegeUSA's Vegan Shrimp with Sweet Chili Sauce. This whole plate of "shrimp" is 140 calories, 4 grams of fat, and zero cholesterol.

Did you know that "real" shrimp has twice the cholesterol as the same quantity of beef?

Lately, I've tried an experiment -- I've asked my patients with elevated cholesterol, "Do you know what foods have cholesterol in them?" The answers are interesting. Many patients just don't know. Sweets, oily foods, fat, they say.

The answer is simple: Animals make cholesterol. So anything that was an animal, or came from an animal, has cholesterol in it. Beef, chicken, pork, fish, seafood, dairy, and eggs are full of cholesterol.

A vegan diet, which is a without animal products, is cholesterol-free. And cutting back on animal product consumption, or better yet, following a vegan diet, will lower cholesterol.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Giving Back

Volunteering has always been something that is important to me. I feel very lucky to be where I am in life, to have had great family and mentors to guide me toward my career in cardiology. Because of this, I decided to put my talents to use, and I am the cardiologist of the Los Angeles Free Clinic. I volunteer one evening a month to see uninsured patients who need a cardiologist.

Tonight was my first shift. It was an interesting and rewarding experience. It's very different to think about practicing medicine in a situation where we can't order the tests we take for granted. Echocardiograms, stress tests, and cardiac catheterizations take months to obtain. So I have to rely on my clinical judgement and physical examination skills.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Easy Meal

A quck, easy, and healthy dinner from Trader Joe's:Sweet Potato Bisque soup, straight from the carton to the microwave. On the plate, lentils (ready to eat right from the bag) on leftover whole wheat couscous. And, a salad with baby beets and black berries, with ginger sesame dressing.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Thoughts from a Weekend On Call

It's been a busy weekend. I didn't get a chance to work out, which makes me feel like a complete sloth.

I do love my job. I save lives. Honestly. And it's a great feeling when I do get the chance to help someone.

Other times, I'm asked to see patients who are critically ill, who have already something very bad happen to them. Often it's like being asked to see Humpty Dumpty after he's fallen off the wall, and being asked to do what all the king's horses and all the king's men can't do.
This weekend has had elements of both, and I am emotionally exhausted.
Image from www.alphabet-soup.net

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rave Run

This might have been the coolest run ever.

Griffith Park has a holiday light display every year. You can idle through in your car after waiting in a long line.... I chose to run!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Ella Corre -- City of Angels Half Marathon Race Report

"Ella corre" is "She runs" in Spanish. I'm learning Spanish. It's a good skill for a physician in Southern California to have. So to practice, I may throw a little Espanol into my posts.

It was cccccooooolllllld this morning! As we waited for the start, it was about 41 degrees. If this were any other city I've lived in (Detroit, Rochester NY, Boston), it would be expected to be this cold in December. Not in Los Angeles. We huddled in Griffith Park by the heat lamps, then shivered in the porta-potty lines before the race started.

The first five miles were in Griffith Park, which is where I've done my training runs. My goal was to run 10:30 mile splits, and at the halfway mark to pick up the pace if I felt good.. My first four were about 10:00-10:15. Part of me was excited, and the other part of me was worried that I'd lose steam.

I lost a little bit of steam, and my splits slowed down, but not too much. The scenery was nice -- Griffith Park, Silver Lake, Echo Park reservoir, and then into downtown LA.

My main issue was gastrointestinal. My stomach felt heavy, like I would throw up, or worse. And while a well-timed Gu packet gave me more energy, five or ten minutes later my stomach was getting angry at me. This is an issue I need to figure out well before Vineman 70.3 in July 2008.

Even now my stomach is screwed up. I planned to have a Tofurky sandwich on whole wheat with lettuce, tomato, and guacamole. Instead I had a banana, sweet potato soup, and two slices of whole wheat toast with Earth Balance and strawberry jam, and my stomach didn't really like that either.

So, anyway, my lackluster time: 2:17:47. I ran two half marathons last year on 2:11 and 2:12. I've slowed down this year, probably because I've cut back to running 4 times a week, maxed out at 24 miles in a week, and I'm a year older. On the flip side, I have added a spinning class each week to cross train, and unlike last season, I haven't been significantly injured. Maybe for me slower is smarter.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Biggest Loser and Why Can't Everyone be So Successful


The reason I really like this show is that it demonstrates that people can become healthier by losing weight, exercising, and eating healthfully.

On the most recent episode, the remaining seven contestants met with the show's doctor. One contestant's cholesterol dropped by 100 points. Another who was pre-diabetic no longer was glucose intolerant. And, one contestant who had hypertension no longer needed to take blood pressure medication after his large weight loss.

These feats were all accomplished by a change in lifestyle -- not with medications.

Why can't I get my patients to do the same? Many of my patients are overweight, eating terribly, with risk factors for heart disease -- diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol. They're often fortunate that they have not had a heart attack or stroke YET.

I try to give them the knowledge to eat well and exercise on their own. Most are receptive to my advice and willing to make changes. But invariably, they come back a few months later.... HEAVIER!!!

Sometimes, I liken it to my high school cheerleading coach, who when she would get annoyed at us not listening to her, would turn around, face the wall, and continue to talk, until we all noticed and started giggling. I feel the same way -- I might as well be talking to a wall.

But, I think a lot of it is our society. Sedentary is acceptable. Restaurants serve non-healthful foods -- they really don't care how healthy their food is for the most part, as long as it tastes good. And when you're hungry on the run, what do vending machines have? Junk.

The Biggest Loser contestants are sequestered on "The Biggest Loser Campus". They aren't exposed to negative influences of society. They have personal trainers. They have healthy food.

I have had one successful patient who I cared for during cardiology fellowship. He was hospitalized with a heart attack. He was a smoker, overweight, with a history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I gave him my usual talk -- quit smoking, eat better, consume more fruits and vegetables and less meat (most doctors won't say this, but it's true, meat is not good for you), exercise and lose weight. He quit smoking, lost 50 pounds, and as a result, dropped his cholesterol and blood pressure. In the two years that I cared for him after his heart attack, he did really well, without any angina (heart-related chest pain), and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Lifestyle change is possible. It takes a motivated person. When successful, these people can live longer, healthier lives.