Squidalicious Reviews

A Very Useful Event: Nintendo & the American Heart Association
November 15, 2010, 9:15 pm
Filed under: health | Tags: , , , , ,

I am a health-slacker from a family with nasty heart problems. It is not a great combination. I know I need to be careful, and I know exactly what I should be doing to take better care of my health, but a kick-in-the-pants reminder about prioritizing well-being is always welcome. So, when lovely Justine from Brand About Town asked me if I’d like to attend a Nintendo & American Heart Association-sponsored health event at the W San Francisco, I said yes, please!

Jenijen came with me, as she was miraculously available. We rode to San Francisco in a cushy shuttle arranged by Wii ambassador Kim Postlewaite from Tippy Toes and Tantrums, whose company I always enjoy. Jen & I talked about how we both gravitate away from complainers and towards non-complainers, how that trickles down into asking our kids to tell us what they do like and do want — instead of moaning about what they don’t like and don’t want. An eerily prescient conversation, as you will see.

Upon arrival, we were asked if we’d taken our Heart Health Survey — I had, but my crappy 5.7 out of 10 score meant I was too embarrassed to request the Heart Health Score pin that the 7+ scorers were nonchalantly sporting. We were served delicious honey yogurt, granola, and dried fruit parfaits — and not the chewing-on-bark kind, but the kind that makes me wonder why I don’t eat that way for breakfast more often since it involves assembly rather than cooking.

Then we got to play with the Wii and Wii Fits. I confessed to Jenijen that I’d never even seen a Wii IRL before, so she showed me how to use the controller, then used her veteran skills to wipe the floor with me on Wii Bowling. I could definitely see how the Wii could encourage couch-planted gamers to become more active — my hurt pride aside, the free-form play was a lot of fun. I could also see why fellow parents of kids with autism recommend the Wii, though I think my son Leo might have a hard time manipulating the controller. Regardless, I’m planning to mooch a session with Leo at a Wii-owning friend’s house, ASAP.

Then we were ushered into the speakers room a scrumptious healthy lunch — grilled chicken with a fruity sauce over a variety of grains mixed with wilted greens, nuts, and whole cooked grains — including the quinoa I already adore. Again, forehead slap — this kind of food is not difficult to prepare!

We listened as Hank Wasiak told us how to approach our health from the perspective of Asset-Based Thinking, which was similar to what Jen & I were discussing on the way to the event — getting away from negative, downside-focused “deficit-based thinking.” Here are some of Hank’s points, as they relate to taking charge of your own health*:

  • Asset-based thinking is about focusing on what’s possible, and what’s working.
  • You need behavior change to improve your health, and behavior change is not easy.
  • You need to make desire more important than fear.
  • You are the one who is in control of your health.

Then we had a Q&A session with four doctors whose specialties ranged from pediatric weight intervention to cardiac surgery & repairs. This was my favorite part of the entire event, and I was not alone in wishing we could have spent more time questioning the good-humored and incredibly knowledgeable doctors. Here are some of their points*:

  • 82% of cardivascular disease is preventable through lifestyle changes.
  • 1 in 3 women will die from cardiovascular issues — as opposed to, for instance, 1 in 41 from breast cancer. Life-threatening cardiovascular disease is much more common than cancer, and we need more awareness of this risk.
  • 73% of women who have heart attacks have symptoms in the previous month, usually unusual tiredness or insomnia — so if you start seeing these symptoms, you need to be diligent and assertive in having your doctor evaluate your cardiac health.
  • 43% of women have no chest pain even in the middle of a heart attack.
  • Stress is a big factor in heart health.
  • Today’s children are the first generation that may have shorter life expectancies than their parents, due to obesity.
  • Children as young as three years old are now developing plaques in their arteries.
  • Modeling for your kids is important when it comes to healthy food habits, in terms of portion sizes and food choices. Practice what you preach, what you want them to learn.
  • Kids are motivated by “food justice,” older kids can read books like Omnivore’s Dilemma, teens can see Super-Size Me.
  • Salt is an acquired taste, like sugar.
  • Sodium is mostly an issue with processed foods, but this is not always obvious with items like bread. Read labels.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup tricks your body into taking in more sugar calories than regular sugar, because fructose bypasses you body’s normal sugar regulatory system, and your body doesn’t register all those extra fructose calories as “sugar.” For more information, see UCSF’s Robert Lustig’s work on Sugar and Obesity.

Even though we all wanted to keep drilling the doctors, our time was up. But it wasn’t too much of a hardship, as it was time for more Wii madness and a tasty dessert of gingered-lime fruit salad and smoothies. We also got to write letters to ourselves, which the AHA people will be mailing us in a few months. Mine said, “You will take action to get your cholesterol under control through diet and exercise or else you will be obligated to publicly humiliate yourself on you blog.” But I won’t have to do that, thanks to all the excellent tips, info, and guidance we received during the event — right?

The website of the American Heart Association, Heart.org, contains many resources for helping evaluate, improve, and maintain heart health.

*Practical disclaimer: My notes are not a literal transcript of the event, and many contain errors or omissions.