It turns out that if you have a strong family history of heart problems, exercise can still make a dramatic difference in your own heart health. We also talk with Dr. Cathy Utzschneider about celebrating our accomplishments. This is a good one. Check it out.

This is a good episode of the Huntsman World Senior Games Active Life podcast. Check it out.


Source: Exercise May Help Offset Even a Family History of Heart Disease

Full Show Transcript

Kyle Case:                     Hello, and welcome to the Huntsman Worlds Senior Games active life. My name is Kyle Case, and I'll be your host on this amazing journey as we attempt to help you get the most out of your life. Joining me in the studio today is my co-pilot, Jeff Harding. Jeff, how are you doing today?

Jeff Harding:                 I thought you were going to ask me how I'm feeling. I say I'm feeling the love today.

Kyle Case:                     It's Valentine's Day.

Jeff Harding:                 It is.

Kyle Case:                     It's a very special day. It's a day when we demonstrate our love, and we remember those that are close to us, that means a lot to us.

Jeff Harding:                 We think about our hearts a lot.

Kyle Case:                     We think about our hearts a lot, I was just going to say that. The universal symbol of the holiday is everywhere that you look.

Jeff Harding:                 Yes, it is.

Kyle Case:                     I am seeing it at gas stations, in grocery stores, on billboards.

Jeff Harding:                 Even gas stations.

Kyle Case:                     Even gas stations. With that in mind, today, I thought we would start our show off with some happy information about heart health.

Jeff Harding:                 Well, we could always use happy heart health information.

Kyle Case:                     Yes, yes. I found this article in Consumer's Digest magazine. It's written by Sally Wadyka. It is entitled, "Exercise May Help Offset Even a Family History of Heart Disease."

Jeff Harding:                 That is happy news.

Kyle Case:                     That's good news, right?

Jeff Harding:                 That is, yes.

Kyle Case:                     I like this article, Jeff, not because I personally have a family history of heart disease. At least, I don't have one that I'm aware of. Although, it only takes one.

Jeff Harding:                 You can be the first.

Kyle Case:                     Then, all of a sudden you have it, and maybe I'll be the one. I don't know. But my wife does. She has a history of heart problems, and heart attacks, and things like that. Mindy, on this Valentine's Day, this is for you.

Jeff Harding:                 Mindy is his wife.

Kyle Case:                     I'm such a hopeless romantic. Right, Jeff?

Jeff Harding:                 He is. You know, he's just got stars in his eyes right now.

Kyle Case:                     Here's the deal. It's no secret that physical activity is good for your heart.

Jeff Harding:                 Right.

Kyle Case:                     We all know that. But a new study suggests that being active and fit can protect your heart even if you have a strong family history of heart disease, which to me, is great news.

Jeff Harding:                 That is.

Kyle Case:                     The main message of this study is that genetic risk isn't deterministic. That's by Eric [Ingleson 00:02:16], who is a doctor and also professor of medicine at Stanford University of Medicine and he's the lead author of this article, this study, that was published in the American Heart Association journal, "Circulation." So he says, "Even if your parents died early of heart disease, you can reduce your risk to the level of someone with no family history of the disease by increasing your fitness." Now that's pretty big.

Jeff Harding:                 That is. But what you don't know is how active were your parents? Were your parents fit?

Kyle Case:                     Well exactly.

Jeff Harding:                 Did they have a history of heart disease because ... did they [inaudible 00:02:46] because they weren't healthy or they ... you just never know.

Kyle Case:                     Yeah, we don't know the family history aspect of it.

Jeff Harding:                 But we do know if you are active you can reduce your risk, that's the important thing.

Kyle Case:                     That is what this study has found out. They've actually analyzed decades of research and have shown exercise, as we know, is good for our heart. Being physically fit has been linked to several cardiovascular benefits including healthy body weight, lower blood pressure and reducing inflammation. But people with a family history of heart disease may have thought, in the past, that they were destined to have heart trouble themselves, even if they exercised or made other lifestyle changes. But this study, Jeff, shows that that is simply not true.

Jeff Harding:                 You can beat the odds.

Kyle Case:                     You can. You can change things around. So here's the study. Let me explain what happened. The researches and these researchers were from Stanford University as well as Uppsala University in Sweden. They analyzed data from a group of about a half million men and women.

Jeff Harding:                 So that's pretty substantial.

Kyle Case:                     Yeah this is a big study. They were ages 49-60 and they gathered this data over an average of six years. So it's got some meat behind it.

Jeff Harding:                 It's a long term study too, yeah. Yeah, it does.

Kyle Case:                     The subjects genetic risk of heart disease was assessed, and the way that they did that is they used blood tests and they also checked their physical activity, their cardiovascular fitness and they also measured their grip strength, which is a general overall way to measure your overall strength. They found that they're pretty correlated together. So all those things were measured.

Kyle Case:                     The researchers found that having good cardiovascular fitness and grip strength and staying active protected subjects from heart disease and Atrial Fibrillation. So Atrial fibrillation is that irregular heartbeat that increases your risk of stroke, heart failure, and other complications.

Kyle Case:                     So Jeff, here's the great news, it didn't matter whether the participants were in the low, intermediate or high genetic risk group for cardiovascular disease. When they got their hearts healthy and they stayed active and they had good strength, they were able to lower their risk of heart disease. So being fitter also cut the risk of premature death from any cause, which is also good news.

Jeff Harding:                 Yes, it is.

Kyle Case:                     In fact, they found that exercise bestowed big benefits for those with people in the highest genetic risk of heart problems. So if you've got, genetically, a high risk of heart problems, being active is gonna help you dramatically. Those in this group who were the fittest... listen to this Jeff, this is significant. They had a 49% lower risk of developing heart trouble.

Jeff Harding:                 Wow. That's a big reduce.

Kyle Case:                     That's gigantic.

Jeff Harding:                 Reduction in risk. That's huge.

Kyle Case:                     When you're talking about your heart, which is something we all need.

Jeff Harding:                 Yes we do.

Kyle Case:                     You wanna reduce your risk as much as you possibly can.

Jeff Harding:                 I mean they have some new ones on the showroom floor but I don't know that I really want one of those.

Kyle Case:                     It's hard to get one.

Jeff Harding:                 It is, it is, and it's expensive. They're high maintenance.

Kyle Case:                     Keep the one you've got, right. So here's the thing, it's just plain and simple, getting more blood and oxygen pumping through your body during a workout helps you keep your heart healthier. Exercise has been shown to improve your overall blood lipid levels by reducing triglycerides and increasing the HDL, that's what they call the good cholesterol in your blood. And a regular work out regime also helps lower your blood pressure. So so many benefits in association with your heart. And of course, we also know that all those benefits that are good for your heart are also good for your brain. So there's just so many good things going on here.

Kyle Case:                     Last thing I wanted to mention. The American Heart Association recommends that adults get a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic exercise. So we're looking at about 30 minutes a day, which is what we've all been talking about for years now. Anything that increases your heart rate is what they're looking for. So brisk walking, water aerobics, biking, tennis, ballroom dancing, anything that gets your heart rate up is good. And listen to this, because this is really important. Even those who get little physical activity can help their hearts just by adding in any amount of light physical activity.

Kyle Case:                     So it's never too late and even a little bit can make a difference.

Jeff Harding:                 That's right.

Kyle Case:                     So on this Valentine's day, keep that heart healthy.

Jeff Harding:                 Love your heart.

Kyle Case:                     Love your heart, get out there, get some exercise in, even if you are at a higher risk because of your genetics, you can turn that around.

Jeff Harding:                 Which is really good news.

Kyle Case:                     That's big news.

Jeff Harding:                 That's huge news.

Kyle Case:                     I appreciated that information, I think that's great. Jeff, today's guest, in her final episode in the series ... four-part series on goal setting, we're more than happy to welcome back Dr. Kathy Utzschneider. Dr. Utzschneider is the founder of MOVE, which is a private coaching practice for runners, swimmers, tennis players and other athletes. She's had huge success as a coach and quite a bit of success herself as a masters athlete. Dr. Utzschneider is a professor at Boston College and we are so glad to welcome you back Dr. Utzschneider. Thank you for joining us once again today.

Dr.Utzschneider:          Oh, well thank you both, Jeff and Kyle, for such a generous introduction. I was very interested and happy Valentines Day to you and all the listeners.

Kyle Case:                     Thank you.

Jeff Harding:                 Thank you.

Kyle Case:                     Yeah isn't that good news?

Dr.Utzschneider:          My husband gave me a wonderful Valentines present. I misplaced my wallet and he found it. [crosstalk 00:08:07] but that was a great present.

Kyle Case:                     As we say, hopeless romantic right there, right?

Dr.Utzschneider:          Exactly. Exactly.

Kyle Case:                     Well that's awesome. Tell me, just really quickly ... yeah, really quickly, your thoughts on that because you're involved in that industry. You're helping people throughout their entire life to live an active and healthy lifestyle. How does that make you feel that you're overcoming some of those genetic deficiencies that maybe people have?

Dr.Utzschneider:          I feel blessed and I feel grateful for the small ... every small step that I can take every day and I encourage other people to not be too proud to celebrate even the smallest achievement every day.

Jeff Harding:                 I love that.

Dr.Utzschneider:          Make a big deal of a small goal.

Kyle Case:                     I love that. And you know we've been talking over the past couple of months with you about setting goals and how to go about that, how to be successful, how to get them to stick. Today we're gonna talk about just what you mentioned and that is the celebration aspect, right?

Dr.Utzschneider:          It's so important. Exactly.

Kyle Case:                     So-

Dr.Utzschneider:          Shall I tell you why?

Kyle Case:                     Yeah, I was gonna say, so we've been talking about this but why is that celebration so important?

Dr.Utzschneider:          Well, it points to the importance of the journey is just as important, if not more important, than the arrival. The journey is more important than the arrival. That is, [inaudible 00:09:41] come together than the event itself. So let's say you're training for the Huntsman games, what many listeners may be aiming for.

Kyle Case:                     Right, that's what we're hoping for.

Dr.Utzschneider:          Yeah, exactly, me too. And I think that a celebration really helps ... and some people skip that stage. They say, "Well why should I, shouldn't I just go on and start ..." You have your event at the Huntsman games and then you're done with it and [crosstalk 00:10:10]

Kyle Case:                     On to the next thing. Yeah.

Dr.Utzschneider:          Right. And onto the next thing. But truly, as a celebration has a lot of meaning, not just for the athlete but also for all the people around that athlete who supported him or her. And it adds ... just think of major events in life that one might not celebrate, but then what do you miss? You miss ... we need markers in time, for one thing. We need to feel that ... I often talk about goals as being valuable because they add structure to words. They add a period, a paragraph, a chapter, to a book that without those would be endless words.

Kyle Case:                     I like that, that makes sense.

Dr.Utzschneider:          And celebration is that last point, there. And that's the time ... if you think of times that you have achieved milestones, athletic or professional or personal, how do you think about celebrations? Do you think ... don't they enhance the meaning of the event, the meaning of the journey?

Kyle Case:                     I love that concept or that idea although, Dr. Utzschneider I'm gonna be honest, I am one of those people who tend to be like, "Okay, let's move on. We did it let's move on." I tend to be one of those people but I like what you're saying and I think that's worth maybe rethinking the way that I accomplish things.

Jeff Harding:                 You know, for me, I think that the body experiences what the mind thinks about, and if you stop and celebrate, that's a mental function but it also becomes a physical function. You're celebrating your body so it's going to feel maybe like it's accomplished. That sounds like it's a separate entity but if you don't allow your body to feel like it's had success, your mind to feel like your body's had success, it's like the body is never going to be good enough. So it's like, "Hey, I'm okay." So there's that aspect of it also.

Kyle Case:                     Yeah, I like that as well.

Dr.Utzschneider:          Right. And you don't get that recovery that's so important, right? We want to periodize our training meaning we wanna divide it into a baseline phase and then a strengthening phase and then a sharpening phase then a tapering phase then you have the event. You have the celebration, then you have the recovery for a while. I was just ... the question is how ... think about celebrating the event, think about do you celebrate it with friends from high school or college, let's say you're doing something together. Do you celebrate with others from the Huntsman games who you're reuniting with? Do you celebrate with your family and friends? Hopefully, your family will be there also.

Dr.Utzschneider:          Or do you celebrate with ... let's say you're doing something for a cause, for a hospital, for cancer. Do you celebrate some of the people whose lives have inspired your training? That's important. But one piece that I would encourage everyone to think about, in terms of celebrating, which doesn't involve spending any large amounts of money or anything. It's something you can do with your computer or paper and pencil. And that is to write down what the meaning of your event was. Countless times and I'll pause after to hear what you think about this, athletes forget what actually happened and how grateful they are for what they did and what all the factors that went into it and therefore how much there is to celebrate.

Dr.Utzschneider:          I just had a runner who trained for the New England Track and Field Championship and she was taking notes, just five-ten minutes of notes for five days. And she said, "You know coach, I totally forgot about all these things that happened during my training. And I totally forgot how I overcame that calf pull, I worked through that. I forgot how I was sick and had the flu for five days in my sharpening phase." All these things and that evoked a huge sense of gratitude for what she had done. And she said she would've forgotten. So, celebrating and celebrating by writing some things down, taking some notes, is a huge validation and a huge source of information that can help you for future events and also allow you to say, "Okay, I can take a break for a little while, I can relax." Who doesn't want to do that for a while?

Kyle Case:                     I think that makes a lot of sense. You are listening to the Huntsman World Senior Games Active Life and we're visiting with Dr. Katherine Utzschneider. We're talking about goal setting. We've been talking with her for a couple of months now specifically about setting goals and how to do that and today we're talking about the joy of celebration once you hit your mark and Dr. Utzschneider I really like what you said about chronicling the journey by taking notes throughout the whole process so you can go back and review that. I'm not a huge journaler myself but I do believe in the value of it. It's something that I can just see how being able to go back like your athlete that you were just talking about and go back and look at the journey itself adds that much more to the gratitude and the appreciation to the hard work that you put in and then it makes that celebration that much sweeter.

Jeff Harding:                 You know, for me, that's paramount to when you hike up a mountain. I mean you've got the beauty in front of you, but what's great is trying to look where you've come from. And taking the notes it's like looking back down at the valley, the trail you just hiked up, and the ... it inspires awe in you that you actually were able to do it but also the view that you get from up there is so amazing that if you don't take the time to look you're not gonna see that view.

Kyle Case:                     So I wanna-

Dr.Utzschneider:          Exactly. Yeah-

Kyle Case:                     Go ahead.

Dr.Utzschneider:          I was gonna say it's like action and reflection. There's a combination of researchers at Harvard Business School, Theresa Amabile, and Steven Kramer, and I don't know if you've heard about the progress principle. With that ... the progress principle is this. They researched about ... exactly 238 employees in seven companies and they took notes for a four-month period. Very short notes. A few notes at the end of each day, to record what they were grateful for. And they found that, number one, they're confidence improved dramatically and that they became more productive in a follow-up survey. And the point here, they said in the conclusion of their study, they said, "Any accomplishment, no matter how small, activates the reward circuitry of our brains." I mean when we celebrate, the levels of dopamine in our brains is released and that energizes us and it helps us experience the deserved reward.

Dr.Utzschneider:          So they recommend, also, writing down daily wins so that we can be more aware of our progress. And a celebration is an occasion to stress that.

Kyle Case:                     I like that. I like that. We've talked before on the show about the actual health benefits of being grateful. Last Thanksgiving we talked about that specifically and so there are some actual measurable health benefits to being grateful and I like this process that you're talking about where we're writing down those little victories, remembering the process, going back and reviewing all that you went through in order to accomplish your goal so that that accomplishment is that much more sweeter. That celebration is that much sweeter when you're able to look back and actually remember because it's easy to get caught up in the grind and forget about all of the particulars and specifics that went into it.

Kyle Case:                     So here's my question for you, Dr. Utzschneider. I think you're starting to convince me on the importance of a celebration at the end of a goal reached.

Dr.Utzschneider:          Oh good.

Kyle Case:                     I like what we're talking about here. What does the celebration look like? Is it like, "I lost 10 pounds so now I get to go buy a cake. Or ..." what does your celebration look like?

Dr.Utzschneider:          Excellent question, again. Celebrations have got to be unique, just as we are unique. So, for some people, it might be, you know what, it's Valentine's day, in fact, a client called me today and said, "Coach, I'm loading up on the cholate today, I just want you to know."

Kyle Case:                     I'm just gonna confess right now, right?

Dr.Utzschneider:          Strawberries and chocolate, that's what she's going for. But it really ... it's important to define what a celebration is. So for some people, when I have several people training for the same event, sometimes they will go ... they will have coffee together, it will be that simple. But it will be a time where everybody ... where there is some discussion, just group talk about what happened. What did people learn? Because it's an exchange of ideas. Whether you're with other people who are also athletes or whether you're with people who are your support network. So, it can be ... but it's very important, no matter how you celebrate, to plan the celebration ... and no matter how simple or how elaborately, whether you go on a weeks vacation and celebrate.

Kyle Case:                     Goin on a cruise or whatever.

Jeff Harding:                 That's quite the celebration, yes.

Dr.Utzschneider:          It's important that you plan it early, and it's important that you define it specifically in terms of, alright, we're gonna do it on Thursday night at 6:30. It doesn't have to be a full week, whatever. But plan it on the date, and to tell others who are wanting to celebrate with you, when it is.

Kyle Case:                     So it sounds like it needs to be intentional, right? It's not something that just happens spontaneously at the finish line.

Dr.Utzschneider:          Right.

Kyle Case:                     It's something that you plan towards, plan for, and then you actually implement.

Dr.Utzschneider:          And one of the ... exactly. One of the reasons that it is ... another reason that a celebration is so important and that it's so important to take time out for a little bit, is that our tendencies, I think, as people are ... it's too easy to doubt ourselves, it's too easy to push to far to fast. I became convinced of that about 22 years ago. I had a silver medalist rower as a client, she had won the silver medal and she said, "I don't really think I did so well." And I thought, the only reason I raised that ... and she did. But, that voice was there. And there's a lot about silver medalists are the ones who are less satisfied than gold medalists who won or bronze medalists who made the podium. But none the less, I think that we have to ... as Sean Achor says in the Happiness Advantage, excellent book, "We have to work at being happy and at boosting ourselves. And we have to know when to hold back."

Dr.Utzschneider:          And I spend a lot of time as a coach, people will see me with a stopwatch and they'll say, "Oh, you're pushing them coach, aren't you?" And I say, "More often than not, I'm holding them back." And I say that because a celebration, it's not only important to set aside a specific time to celebrate, it's important to set a number of weeks, at least, depending on how long you've been training, to say, "This is gonna be your low period." You can ... of course ... do something different, but make the ... define it as a different time from your training time.

Kyle Case:                     That makes a lot of sense.

Dr.Utzschneider:          Does that make sense?

Kyle Case:                     Yeah, absolutely. I like that. Now we've only got about 30 seconds so I don't know if you can answer this fully but my question is this. We've been talking a little bit about setting your goal and that goal is maybe a specific event or occasion. And it seems easy, I ran this race and so I'm gonna celebrate. I played in the Huntsman World Senior Games and I'm gonna celebrate. What if your goal is a little bit less defined. What if it's to run at a certain time or swim a certain length or lose a certain amount of weight, how do you celebrate that way?

Dr.Utzschneider:          Just as important. Make the celebration just as big. Remember that tiny little goals, tiny little steps, make up huge accomplishments. And we should never be too proud to respect the tiniest goals. So you celebrate. Maybe you go out for a healthy dinner if you're trying to lose weight and continue to lose weight. Maybe you give yourself one exception, "Okay, I'm gonna have that carrot cake. I love it, I've lost 10 pounds, that was my goal. One piece of carrot cake is not gonna throw me over the edge, whatever." But the habit of celebrating and taking a little bit of time to reflect and to appreciate and then time off for a few weeks afterward, at least changing up the pace, is just as important as setting the goals. Life happens in waves.

Kyle Case:                     Yes, absolutely. Dr. Utzschneider thank you so much for joining us today. We've run out of time but we're so appreciative of your expertise, thanks for joining us.

Dr.Utzschneider:          Oh, thank you so much.

Kyle Case:                     So Jeff, time is flying.

Jeff Harding:                 Oh boy is it.

Kyle Case:                     Boy we are midway through February now.

Jeff Harding:                 Yes we are.

Kyle Case:                     And the Huntsman World Senior Games are marching closer and closer. A couple thing si wanna make people aware of, January 1st is when we open team registration and we have actually registered, Jeff, over 565 total teams.

Jeff Harding:                 Wow.

Kyle Case:                     So if you're a team manager, it's time to get on it.

Jeff Harding:                 Or you may be too late.

Kyle Case:                     Hit today and reserve your spot at the Huntsman world senior games. March 1st is athlete registration, that's when it opens. That's just a couple weeks away, so put that on your calendar.

Jeff Harding:                 Right around the corner.

Kyle Case:                     And plan to register. And then, of course, the dates for the Huntsman World Senior Games 2019, we're looking at October 7-19. There's time to get ready but you got to get after it. Remember to tune in live next to and every Thursday at 5:30 pm mountain time on AM 1450 or FM 93.1 for the Huntsman World Senior Games Active life and of course you can subscribe to our podcast pretty much anywhere that podcasts are found. Are inspirational quote for the day is from author Robert Collier, he says Jeff, "Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out."

Jeff Harding:                 Isn't that the truth.

Kyle Case:                     Until next Thursday, Stay active.

Jeff Harding:                 Bye everyone.