August 20, 2016 is a date that will forever be in my memory. I received a very serious concussion, due to a cycling accident, that changed my life. My fiancé and I were participating in a charity cycling event, on a closed course, in Howard County. We’re not sure what happened, but I crashed – hard. I could not have been luckier because I crashed in front of a police officer who was able to get me help quickly. I was unconscious for three minutes. First responders rushed me to a shock trauma facility.

I haven’t been able to remember the two weeks that I spent in the shock trauma hospital. My family accounts for that time though, reminding me of the exceptional care I received. The trauma team performed a wide range of assessments and determined that I had broken my clavicle, my temporal bone (in multiple places), had two brain contusions, and a large laceration on the outside of my head that required staples to close. The doctors were very clear with my family – the helmet I had been wearing saved my life. The team treated me with various medications, trying to get the swelling in my brain down. For several days, it was touch-and-go as to whether or not I would need surgery to reduce the swelling. Thankfully, I didn’t need it.

When I was moved to a rehabilitation and orthopedic hospital I saw physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists, in addition to a neurologist. The specialists called my progress “astounding,” and released me after a week. I continued for outpatient OT (occupational therapy) for my broken clavicle and only needed two sessions with the speech therapist. My progress took everyone by surprise, given the severity of my injuries.

I returned to work at the end of October 2016 and my progress continues to astound my family (and me) on a daily basis. I’m slightly more than six months passed my accident and I am so grateful for the ongoing progress. The lessons I’ve learned from this experience have been life-changing! My concussion has been tough on me and my family, but it’s taught me to ask for, and accept, help (which is something I’ve always struggled with).

My doctors tell me that I’ll encounter some challenges this year – a weaker immune system, getting fatigued more easily, etc., but I am learning to listen to my body. Recovery isn’t perfect, but it’s better than the alternative. My long-term prognosis is excellent and my doctors expect a full recovery in a year. They’ve also told me that I will be back doing triathlons before I know it!

I choose gratitude everyday for all the progress I’ve made.

Sara Berlin is a Special Educator, with a specialty in teaching students with Autism, teaching for Baltimore County Public Schools. Currently, she is a Consulting Teacher, working with new and low-performing Special Educators. She spends her summers at Camp Louise, where she serves as the Division Head for the middle school program, as well as the Inclusion Coordinator.  In her free time, Sara can be found on the bike paths of Howard County, as she loves the outdoors and is a triathlete!

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC). Unfortunately, you may not realize that you are at risk of having a heart attack until it’s too late.

While there is very little you can do to change your family medical history, you can make lifestyle changes to lower your risk. First, learn about the behaviors that increase the risk of heart disease, and then start taking preventive steps.

Behaviors that Increase Heart Disease Risk

Preventive Steps

Eat a heart-healthy diet

Add these following foods to your diet. They are considered to be the main ingredients of a heart-healthy diet.

  • Vegetables – greens (spinach, collard greens and kale), broccoli, cabbage and carrots
  • Fruits – apples, bananas, oranges, pears, grapes and prunes
  • Whole grains – plain oatmeal, brown rice and whole-grain bread or tortillas
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy foods – milk, cheese or yogurt
  • Protein-rich foods – fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, lean meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, soy products and legumes (lentils and some bean types)
  • Oils, butters, nuts and seeds – canola, corn, olive, safflower, sesame, sunflower and soybean oils; nut and seed butters; walnuts, almonds and pine nuts; and sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and flax seeds

Aim for a healthy weight 

Body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight relative to height, is commonly used for determining weight category (underweight, healthy weight, overweight and obese). Adults are typically considered to be at a healthy weight when their BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9.

Use Johns Hopkins Medicine’s BMI calculator to help determine your BMI.

Lower stress

Improve your emotional and physical health by learning to manage stress and practice stress-reducing activities, including:

  • Seeing a mental health care provider
  • Joining a stress management program
  • Meditating
  • Being physically active
  • Practicing relaxation therapy
  • Speaking with friends, family and community or religious support systems

Increase physical activity

Routine physical activity can lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and increase good (HDL) cholesterol levels, control high blood pressure and help with losing excess weight.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends the following:

  • Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise – at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week
  • Vigorous aerobic exercise – 1 hour and 15 minutes per week

Before starting a new exercise program, you should first ask your doctor how much and what physical activities are safe for you.

Quit smoking

Speak with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit smoking, and try to avoid secondhand smoke. If you are having trouble with quitting on your own, consider joining a support group.

Visit your doctor

According to David Jackson, M.D., a cardiologist on staff at HCGH, one of the critical steps to keeping your heart healthy is seeing your doctor for a routine physical exam. Your doctor checks your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar – the big three indicators for heart attack and stroke.

“If your numbers start to become abnormal, you may not feel different or experience symptoms, so it’s important to have them checked periodically and more frequently as you age,” says Dr. Jackson. “Having a primary care physician monitoring your care to identify trends in your numbers is important.”

Learn more about why primary care physicians are important to your health.

More Information

For more details on heart-healthy living, view the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Heart-healthy Lifestyle Changes.

Share Your Thoughts

Do you have any heart-healthy tips – recipe, exercise, stress reducing or other tips? We’d love to hear them, and our readers will appreciate them too. Share them in the comments area.


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Think of what you want to experience in your life. Build a life around healthy living to open up opportunities and possibilities. Instead of looking at weight loss as your purpose for exercise and eating healthy, shift your thought process to a lifetime of wellness. Moving your body matters, here’s why:

Do you feel sluggish? Do you feel fatigue late in the day?
Movement for as little at 20 minutes, three times a week can increase your energy level. This improves your focus and helps you get more done in a day. Even better news, movement can be anything you enjoy and at a moderate level. If you experience a busy, stressful week- high intensity exercise can often leave you feeling more exhausted. This shows that more is not always better. That is, exercise smarter, not necessarily harder in this case.

Are you one of those people who lays in bed at night and can’t fall asleep?

Or do you fall asleep for a few hours only to wake up and and stay up? Well, exercising for 10-20 minutes most days of the week improves your quality of sleep. Pay attention to those days you exercise and see how your sleep patterns change. Since sleep impacts several things, monitor your energy level and mood the next day as well. Speaking of mood, we know that exercise improves our mood and even helps with depression. While exercise is the last thing you feel like doing when you’re sad or tired, it could be the best thing for you. Exercise releases chemicals and endorphins that impact your brain causing an improvement in mood. Again, the good news here, any physical activity such as gardening, walking, bike riding, and even dancing helps.

Does your back feel stiff in the morning?
Do your knees creak going up and down stairs? Do you find it increasingly difficult to get up off the floor? Appropriate movement can help you feel better. All this movement in turn helps develop stronger muscle and bone resulting in a decrease in aches and pains. Remember your heart counts as a muscle so it gets stronger too! Imagine the positive impact on blood pressure and heart disease.

Be active. Move! Strive to be the healthiest version of yourself possible; one step at a time and one day at a time. You’re worth every minute!

Lisa Martin founded the Girls on the Run program in Howard County in 2009. Lisa is AFAA & NSCA certified, has more than 15 years of personal training experience, and practices a multidimensional wellness approach at her studio, Salvere Health & Fitness. Lisa says that one of the best things about being in the health and fitness industry is watching people accomplish things they never thought possible.

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30 Days of Walking for 30 Minutes

Just after Thanksgiving, I came across a 30 day fitness challenge designed to get anyone, at any fitness level moving: 30 minutes of walking for 30 days. I figured that committing to something as simple as walking could only be a good thing. I was right!

My doctor has often said that walking is the best kind of exercise I can get. Walking regularly is one of the best things you can do for your wellness. It can help prevent heart disease, mitigate blood sugars, and combats obesity and depression while strengthening your body. Just speak with your family doctor and follow their suggestions on how you might begin a walking program. If you need materials to help get you started, Leslie Sansone is a big advocate of fitness walking. You can find many of her book and DVD titles at Until then, I’ll share with you what I did.

In order for me to complete this challenge, I had to have a plan. I made walking a priority in my day. I set aside enough time for warming up, walking, and cooling down. My shoes and clothing to walk in were always ready no matter the weather. My water bottle, cell phone, and inhaler (I’m asthmatic) were always with me. When I walked alone, I told someone when and where I was going for my walk. I did everything I could to ensure I would be able to achieve my goal. After all, 30 days of walking 30 minutes was a healthy, attainable goal.

Support meant letting people know this was a goal of mine. I asked friends to walk with me and check-in to ensure I completed my daily walk. This was great because I was building a network of support and accountability. Let’s just say, I leaned on my husband a lot. I essentially told him that no matter what excuse I came up with would only hurt me in the end. That is, not completing this challenge wasn’t an option. Thanks to him and others, I was able to do it!

#3 DO IT
Finally, I just started walking. Without judgment or additional pressure. I warmed up by walking to my starting point on my planned route; set my timer for 15 minutes and started walking. When the time was up I would turn around and start my timer for 15 minutes back. At the end of the 30 minutes I walked from my starting point to my front porch to cool down and I did some easy stretching. I varied my route daily so it would never get boring and I’d have some hill variations in my walk too. I have gotten to the point where I can walk a good while at a decent pace where I can’t hold a long conversation, but can answer with a word or two.

Some days were easier than others. Believe me, the days that were miserable were the greatest when I got back to my house. My reward was that feeling of accomplishment- never giving up. My results are not that surprising. I feel better, my clothes fit better, and my posture has definitely improved. Now that my 30 days are up, I’m pretty proud of myself.  I’m going to do what I can to ensure a minimum of 30 minutes of walking daily because it’s the easiest and best thing I can do, 30 days at a time.

JP is the HCLS Editor & Blog Coordinator for Well & Wise. She is also a Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch & STEM Education Center. She is a storyteller, wannabe triathlete, KPOP-addict, baker of cupcakes, cancer survivor, and liver transplant recipient.

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Running for Beginners

Girls on the Run

According to research done by Running USA, about 17.1 million people participated in running events in 2015, about 57% of those female and 43% male. With the start of the new year, many of us look for new workout ideas, to start something different or to restart something old. For many, this includes a running or walking program. Sometimes it’s the “I want to run a marathon before I turn (insert age)” or a search to experience that runner’s high. Regardless the reason, finding the right program with appropriate progress and balance can be difficult.

Before you start out to become a runner, do a little self-analysis. When did you last run or walk with any regularity? Do you have any ankle, knee or hip issues that might resurface? What other workouts do you do throughout the week or month? The process of building a foundation focusing on form and safely adding miles often gets overlooked with running and walking programs and people start to aggressive.

If you’re just beginning (or restarting) your journey, start slow and give yourself time to build up both duration and miles. Allow a few weeks to get your body accustomed to the movements of running. Set aside three days each week and go out for 20-30 minutes with a combination of running and walking in an interval format. Don’t worry about distance for now.

While you’re building your foundation, pay attention to specifics with your form. Position your body in a slight forward lean from the ankles, not a bend at the hips. Try to keep from bouncing up and down to minimize the stress on your lower body. Hold your head and chest up and swing your arms forward and backwards letting your fingertips lightly brush your ribs. Be careful to not cross your arms in front of your body. Finally, pay attention to your breathing and be sure to not hold your breath and keep a steady rhythm.

Girls on the RunOnce you get through several weeks of consistent training or if you started out with a little bit of a foundation, start planning for your event or mapping out your goal for miles. Use an app such as Map My Run on your phone or a device like the FitBit to check in on your miles. On your next outing, track the miles on your normal route to determine your baseline. From there, maintain a three day a week program and build by adding between 0.5 – 1 mile per week on at least one of your runs. If it feels difficult at any mileage level, stay there until you feel comfortable moving on.

It takes time to create that foundation so don’t rush the process. If you want to run an event over 10 miles, give yourself several months to slowly build your routine. If something starts to hurt, pay attention and back off if needed. In addition to running, be sure to add a day or two of cross training, especially strength exercises to balance out your running. Take time to enjoy the process, stop and smell the roses and vary your routine to see places and experiences only your feet can take you.

[Editor’s Note: Always consult your doctor before starting any kind of diet or exercise program.]

Lisa Martin founded the Girls on the Run program in Howard County in 2009. Lisa is AFAA & NSCA certified, has more than 15 years of personal training experience, and practices a multidimensional wellness approach at her studio, Salvere Health & Fitness. Lisa says that one of the best things about being in the health and fitness industry is watching people accomplish things they never thought possible.

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The Essence of Lace: Yoga

i-am-yogaI have often heard in both videos and in person that the hardest part of yoga is showing up to your mat. I have to say from experience that this is most certainly true. Yoga is just as much a mental exercise as it is a physical one and once you make it to your mat, the journey begins.

Yoga is a relatively new practice for me. I started in April 2015 and have been drawn to it’s benefits ever since. I love yoga for many reasons. The fact that it’s the only exercise I’ve genuinely enjoyed is a noteworthy part of it but there’s so much more to it than the physical aspect. I also use my yoga practice as a time and place for reflection. I have discovered an immense amount about myself by showing up to my mat every day and letting my thoughts arise naturally. I work through problems and questions when I am doing yoga whether it’s a huge personality trait that I’m trying to understand, a pattern in my thinking/behavior, or just something that bothered me earlier in the day. I get to have the time and space to really “sit” with my thoughts and explore what they mean. This allows me to trace back to the root of “why?”

I’m a rather busy person and can find it difficult to balance work and relationships while also finding quality time for myself. Yoga is the one thing I am sure to do for myself every single day whether it’s for five minutes or an hour. The time itself is such a powerful force because it’s for me and only me. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!

The discipline is another very appealing part of the experience. Learning the proper posture/foundation of each pose and flow is extremely rewarding- especially when you have those little “aha!” moments where something so little finally clicks for the first time. It’s empowering.

yoga-therapyYoga challenges my body, mind, and spirit all at the same time. This might sound overwhelming but it’s a surprisingly welcome experience that I am truly thankful for. Yoga has shown me how important it is to take care of myself and has become an incredible outlet to relieve stress, lower anxiety, improve depression, and build strength (just to name a few.) Yoga is a very individual experience. Even when I am in class surrounded by other contorting bodies, I am very much alone in my experience and what it means for me as cleansing energy fills the room.

I recently experienced a random wrist injury and my first thought went immediately to my practice and how it would change my abilities. I felt broken, upset, and annoyed. How could I possibly continue to make improvements with a hand that I can’t apply any pressure to? Of course, this happened right as I was about to master a pose that I had been working on for a year. I thought that this setback would diminish everything that I had worked so hard to achieve.

Instead, I was forced to ask for advice from my yoga instructor and learned several modifications (some of which were more difficult physically than the original). I did more standing yoga and decided to use this time as an opportunity to work on my balancing poses. I didn’t want to stop my practice. While I have no idea when my hand/wrist will get better- I can still experience yoga in a meaningful way. Not to mention, I was able to work through why this setback upset me so much. Yoga truly is more than just a physical exercise. Whether you’re a beginner, expert, senior, pregnant, curvy, or injured– there is a type of yoga for your body and skill level. With that part figured out, all you have to do is show up to your mat and explore your mind. Namaste.

Laci Radford is a Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at Miller Branch. She is a music lover, writer, and an avid reader. She enjoys attending concerts, plays, and other forms of live entertainment. Her favorite activities include scoping out unique items at thrift stores, bonfires with friends, and having tie-dye parties. She is studying Psychology and plans to become a music and art therapist sooner rather than later.

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