Author Archives: Karen Owoc

How to Dodge This Deadly Bullet (Sudden Cardiac Death)

Healthy Life Green Road Sign Did you know… that sudden cardiac death is usually the first symptom of coronary heart disease (CHD) — especially among women?

Compared to men, studies show that women are 66% less likely to be diagnosed with coronary heart disease before sudden cardiac death strikes. If you’re a woman and free of symptoms, you’re not identified as “high risk” which means you’re not eligible for cardiac interventions that could save your life. SCD accounts for more than 50% of cardiac deaths (approximately 250,000 to 310,000 cases annually in the United States).

Heart Attack vs. Sudden Cardiac Death

To clarify, the terms “heart attack” and “sudden cardiac death” are NOT the same thing.

  • A heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI) occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood suddenly gets blocked. Oxygen can’t get to a section of the heart and cardiac tissue dies. Most often the heart is blocked by a build-up of fatty plaque.
  • Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is an abrupt loss of heart function as a result of abnormal electrical impulses within the heart. The heart’s electrical system may fail from physical stress, inherited arrhythmias, drug/alcohol abuse, chronic kidney disease, structural changes in the heart, and/or scar tissue that damages the heart’s electrical system. (Cardiac deaths were considered “sudden” if the death or cardiac arrest occurred within 1 hour of the onset of symptoms.)

Simply put, SCD is considered an ‘electrical’ problem whereas a heart attack is more of a ‘plumbing’ problem. Over the years, I’ve had several patients that were revived and survived sudden cardiac arrest who said they didn’t need cardiac rehab because they didn’t have a heart attack, but had an “electrical issue”. They couldn’t be more wrong.

SCD Risk Can Be Prevented   

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a 26-year study of nearly 82,000 women that showed you can reduce your risk for sudden cardiac death. In the majority of people, coronary heart disease is usually the underlying cause of SCD and this study showed that a low-risk, healthy lifestyle is associated with a low risk of sudden cardiac death.    Continue reading

Fit Find | Evo™ Oil Sprayer



The Evo™ oil sprayer is my newest and absolute favorite gadget in my kitchen. I love it so much that I give it a “Must Have” for every health-conscious kitchen! Yes, really! It’s great for cooking, baking, sautéing, grilling, you name it.

What I Love About It

When pouring oil straight from the bottle, I would usually end up with more than I need and with oil in concentrated doses on my food or sauté pan. What I like about the Evo is that it sprays in what they call a “fan spray pattern” which is why it dispenses the exact amount of oil that I want and where I want it (great for portion control). It’s also refillable and reuseable, so it’s economical, as well as easy to clean.

I really like the trigger design because it feels good in my hand, that is, it’s ergonomic. If you have arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome, the Evo is much easier to handle than the aerosol types. I suggest getting a pair of them — one for your favorite oil as well as balsamic vinegar. I spray fresh fish, veggies before roasting (much better than ‘drizzling’ oil all over them), and salads as well as my waffle iron, sandwich grill and baking pans. I plan to get another one to use for my own oil and vinegar dressing!


18-oz Evo

The BPA-free Evo Oil Sprayer comes in different sizes. I have the smaller 8-oz. size (in the photo at the top) which is perfect for my cooking needs and is great for portability. They also have a large 18-oz. size (left) for the commercial cook or someone who cooks a LOT of food at home. Check out their blog for videos.

Commercial aerosol cooking sprays are horrible. They contain propellants and chemicals and they’re messy. Their inevitable overspray left a sticky hard-to-remove residue on my wood cabinets and cooking surfaces. Ugh. I also never cared for the ‘mister’ types for spritzing oils because they clogged up and were hard to clean.

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: Evo is perfect for taking on picnics, BBQ’s or camping trips. I took my Evo on our last camping/fishing trip for grilling and cooking. It was so convenient to grab my Evo and go. Just be sure to lock the sprayer before you pack it up! It was so much more convenient than trying to fill up a travel size bottle of olive oil or packing up the entire bottle of oil (plus a basting brush) as I usually have had to do. Happy spraying!🙂

Be Aware If You Passed Your Treadmill Stress Test

Having his heart's functions checked

When I first started working in cardiac rehabilitation as a new college grad, one of my Phase 3 cardiac rehab patients had a heart attack when he was only 35 years old. If that wasn’t unsettling enough, he had his heart attack the DAY AFTER he “passed” his treadmill test. Back then, I couldn’t understand how that could possibly happen, but I now know better.

How Sensitive Is Your Treadmill Test?

Here’s what you need to know. Currently, the exercise ECG is the most cost-effective first-line screening tool, but its accuracy relies on the ‘sensitivity’ of the test. Sensitivity refers to the percentage of cases in which exercise testing accurately identifies the presence of coronary artery disease (CAD). Unfortunately, the exercise ECG it is not 100% sensitive to detecting coronary artery disease. 

Per the American College of Sports Medicine, the current sensitivity for detecting CAD using the exercise stress test is only about 70%.  In other words, if you test 100 cardiac rehab patients with documented coronary artery disease, only 70 patients would show evidence of CAD per the stress ECG test. If you’re one of the 30 remaining patients, where does that leave you?

False Negatives

Well, don’t start your celebratory dance (or meal) just yet. It just means that you may fall in either of the following groups:

  1. You have a negative stress test. That is, you actually “passed” and show no signs of coronary artery disease.
  2. You have a false-negative finding. This means you’ve been given a negative stress test result (normal) where no CAD ‘appears’ to be present, but you actually have CAD.

The bottom line… a negative exercise ECG test is no guarantee that you do NOT have coronary artery disease (CAD) even if your cardiologist tells you, “Everything looks great! See you in a year.” So sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s the reality. Cardiac events that occur after a negative stress test happen all too often, but it’s not so perplexing to me anymore.

Causes of False-Negatives (Lower Sensitivity)

Stress test results are only as valuable as your performance, the technician’s monitoring, and the test interpretation. Here are some factors that may increase your chances of a false-negative finding:    Continue reading

ABC10 | Vegetarian Hawaiian Luau

Guest appearance on ABC10 “Sac & Co”

VIDEO: Native Hawaiian cuisine traditionally consisted of meat (pig and fowl), fish and shellfish, pineapples, coconuts, coconut milk, sweet potatoes, taro, seaweed, and sea salt as a condiment. Here’s an updated veggie version of some historical Hawaiian dishes which incorporate some of these native foods. I chatted with host Mellisa Paul on Sac & Co, ABC10’s local morning TV show out of Sacramento, about how to host a vegetarian Hawaiian luau.

Vegetarian Hawaiian Luau_Sac&Co1Vegetarian Hawaiian Luau_Sac&Co3

Here’s what I prepared for the show:

  • Vegetarian Poke: tofu, mango, avocado, wakame (seaweed to impart the flavor of the sea), sweet onions (e.g., Maui or Vidalia onions), green onions, macadamia nuts, Hawaiian sea salt
  • Vegetarian Lau Lau: sweet potato, spinach, sweet onions, green onions, coconut milk, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, Hawaiian sea salt, and collard greens
  • Hibiscus Cooler 
  • Mango Freeze
  • Sparkling POG Juice
  • Haupia with fresh fruit and edible flowers (coconut dessert – pudding style)
  • Hawaiian bread pudding
  • Fresh pineapple in freshly cut coconut bowls

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: If you cannot find Maui or Vidalia onions, look for an onion that has a flattened vs round globe shape. These onions are less pungent due to their low amount of sulfur compounds which allows their ‘sweetness’ (sugar) to come through.

ABC10 | Win the Picky Eater War

Guest appearance on ABC10 “Sac & Co”

VIDEO: As children develop, they also develop likes and dislikes for different foods whereby mealtime can become a battleground with your kids (or grandkids). I chatted with host Mellisa Paul on Sac & Co, ABC10’s local morning TV show out of Sacramento, about how to get your picky eater to be more curious and adventurous when it comes to trying new foods.

Sac & Co_Picky Eater left

Sac & Co_Picky Eater center

Sac & Co_Picky Eater right

Sac & Co_Picky Eater wide

Above are my top picky-eater picks that I prepared for the show:

  • Inside-Out Cheeseburgers (can be made with tofu, turkey or beef)
  • Garden Pasta Salad (leaf-shaped pasta with broccoli ‘trees’ misted with olive oil)
  • Carrot Flowers in Edamame and Brown Rice
  • Lasagna Logs
  • Personal Pinwheels in Zucchini Rings
  • Surprise Branana Muffins

Relax and Live Life…

Quote_Life is like a camera

“Life is like a camera. Just focus on what’s important. Capture the good times. Develop from the negatives & if things don’t work out… just take another shot.”

For more inspiration:

Fit Find | Spicely® Lemon Pepper

Lemon pepper is a refreshing blend of the peel of real lemons and coarsely ground pepper. It’s a classic spice for grilled or baked fresh fish (chicken or turkey) and gives fresh zing to grilled, roasted or steamed vegetables, salads, salad dressings, and hummus.

Lemon pepper is often considered a tasty alternative to salt, but beware. Not all lemon peppers are alike. There are several brands on the supermarket shelves and some include salt and sugar.

This Spice Is Nice

Spicely Lemon PepperSpicely® Organic Lemon Pepper is a pure product that’s rather herbal with a touch of tang. Best of all, it contains NO added salt, sugar, processed starches, anti-caking agents, or food colorants. This seasoning is a delicious blend of: Organic Lemon Peel, Organic Black Pepper, Organic Garlic, Organic Onion, Organic Celery Seed, Organic Dill Seed, and Organic Turmeric.

Spicely also makes an Organic Lemon Peel if you like even more lemon-y zest on your food. Lemons add brightness and acidity to any dish. The lemon peel is granulated and delicious in soups and marinades as well.

Spicely states, “All imported spices are required to go through a sterilization process before being sold in the United States. Most spice companies sterilize using synthetic chemicals or radiation. Spicely Organics uses a process called steam sterilization, which sterilizes food products without adding any chemicals or hazardous materials.” 

The Not-So-Fit Finds

McCormick Lemon Pepper with Garlic & OnionMcCormick’s California Style Lemon Pepper with Garlic & Onion – Black Pepper, Lemon Peel, Citric Acid*, Salt, Onion, Garlic, Sugar, Maltodextrin**, Lemon Juice Solids, and Natural Flavors.

*Citric Acid is a white crystalline powder produced commercially by using a culture of Aspergillus niger (a fungus) and feeding it simple sugar. Molasses is used primarily for citric acid fermentation since it’s readily available and relatively inexpensive. A. niger uses the glucose as food and produces citric acid and carbon dioxide (C02) as waste products.

NOTE: This is the same fungus that causes a disease called ‘black mold’ on certain fruits and vegetables (e.g., grapes, apricots, onions, and peanuts) and is a common contaminant of food. In foods, citric acid is used as a flavor enhancer, preservative and emulsifier.

**Maltodextrin is a cheap filler or thickener that’s added to processed foods. It’s derived from starch, i.e., carbohydrates, such as corn, wheat, potatoes, or rice. The processed starch turns into a moderately sweet or a flavorless white powder. Maltodextrin is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, in fact, as rapidly as pure glucose. This additive is used in some spice blends as we’ve just learned, but it’s often used in:    Continue reading

Live in the Moment…

Quote_If you are depressed..

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” ~ Lao Tzu

For more inspiration:

Is Passion a Part of Your Plan?

Hand with marker writing the word Who Are You?

If you’ve recently experienced a heart attack or other major medical event, the thought of returning back to work may trigger some anxiety. Do you really want to return to a job that may have been the underlying cause of your health scare? If you’re afraid, embrace those feelings.

This is a great time to cultivate some thoughts of change. Starting a new career often inspires new ideas, intentions and assessments about your life. Do you love what you do? If you do, you’ll likely to live a longer life. If not, how do you get there? Here’s how…

Connect with your excitement. Passion is what separates you from the mediocre and unremarkable. Passion is not defined by what you do, it’s who you are. When you work from a place of passion, life is effortless. If you love what you do, you move through your day with enthusiasm, purpose and determination. But somehow along the way, you may have veered off course and you’re no longer sure of who you are. Why? Because you’re operating from the ever-so-confining rules of “I should” rather than your own burning desire.

How many times have you said “I should” when it relates to why you’re working at your current job? Have you ever said any of the following in the past few months?    Continue reading

Is Your Diet Causing Your Wrinkles?

concept of aging and skin care. face of young woman and an old woman with wrinkles isolated

Concerned about aging and looking older than you really are? Then don’t eat white sugar. Why? Because processed sugar binds to and eventually weakens the collagen in your skin. Save your money if you’re buying expensive skin creams, but eating processed sugar — the number-one ingredient to avoid if you want firm, resilient and radiant skin.

The skin is the largest organ of the body and one of the most revealing places where aging occurs.  Over time, your skin may lose its original ‘snug fit’ and begin to wrinkle and sag due in part to your collagen cells breaking down. Collagen is the main structural protein in connective tissue that provides strength to the skin. It’s abundant in blood vessels, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and bone as well.

The sugar-collagen reaction can lead to premature wrinkles and sagging. Sweet Tooth = Wrinkles. All those sugary donuts, Danishes and cookies may be hard to resist despite knowing they could end up settling on your hips and waistline, but perhaps thinking about them showing up as wrinkles on your face and neck or as ‘crepey’, loose skin may help strengthen your will to resist them.

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Remember… sugar speeds up the aging process. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits every day to get the essential components for healthy skin – AND a strong heart! Eat 8-10 total servings daily of fruits and vegetables. That is, 5 or more vegetable servings + 3 fruit servings. Get Real Food! Coming soon… why your heart needs collagen too! 

VIDEOS: Watch Karen’s videos on what to eat for healthy skin. Get science-based info on skin nutrition in less than 3 minutes.

Top Anti-Aging Foods: Part 1 | Best Diet for Your Skin (02:53)
The skin needs essential vitamins to function and look its best.
Discover which ones you need and where to get them. Karen Owoc, The
Health Reporter, provides an overview of the foods to eat to get the key
vitamins necessary for healthy, youthful and glowing skin.

Top Anti-Aging Foods: Part 2 | Best Diet for Your Skin (02:36)
Healthy skin needs essential minerals and fats to do its job and to look its best. Find out which ones you need and where to get them. Karen Owoc, The Health Reporter, identifies the essential fatty acids and minerals that keep your skin smooth and radiant.