Embracing Heart Health
It’s time to return to writing. Almost four years is way to much time between posts. I’ve held three different jobs since the last time I wrote anything on this site. My mother died of a brain tumor in that time. My husband had triple bypass. A daughter got married. Another daughter is expecting our first grand baby. Our youngest graduated from high school. Our oldest found a career she loves.
There was a little pandemic.
And I applied to a doctoral program, which means I needed to figure out what I’m most passionate about so I can research and write about it for the next ten years of my life.
Health, wellness, fitness, nutrition, and disease prevention have been at the core of my passions and interests for most of my adult life. There have been twists and turns along that journey including detours down the alkaline, “clean” food, and keto pathways, but all roads ultimately bring me back to the research. Mom’s illness and death really grabbed my attention as I came to realize that I had at least three generations of devastating cancers on her side. My grandmother died of pancreatic cancer and her father also died young of cancer. My father’s family has a long history of heart disease, and I was dealing with elevated fasting blood glucose suggestive of pre-diabetes. My husband’s family has a nasty heart disease tradition. Then my son-in-law was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It was all a kick in the seat of the pants to my motivation. Thank you 2019.
I found a book called How Not to Die, which triggered a drastic dietary change. It’s all about the science of diet and nutrition and what the research says contributes to and reverses or prevents disease. I adopted a whole food plant based diet with no animal products and no oils. It took awhile to kick a few unhealthy stress eating habits, but once I traded the Hershey Nuggets for purple grapes, I was on my way to much better health. My resting heart rate dropped and my endurance improved significantly. I even began jogging on my treadmill in an effort to get my heart rate into a training zone, because walking was no longer getting me there. The difference was significant.
Late 2020 saw me suggesting my husband go in for a physical since he hadn’t had one in a while. That turned into a colonoscopy which required an EKG before they would proceed. A funky EKG led to a cardiologist, a stress test, a diagnosis of some heart failure, and a heart catheterization. My man had significant blockages in his arteries. His left anterior descending (aka “widowmaker”) was 95% blocked and his right coronary artery was totally blocked. He was scheduled for a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) within a week.
In the midst of all of this, I went on a rampage. No choices. Just directives. If it wasn’t a whole food, it wasn’t staying in the house. It was a tense and cranky time in our world. It’s pretty drastic to go from bologna and ham sandwiches with a side of potato chips to broccoli, butter-less baked potatoes, and beans overnight. Eliminating Dr. Pepper and caffeinated coffee in favor of decaf and water wasn’t an easy leap either. This was life and death for both of us, and only one of us really knew how serious it was.
What I realized through this process was that while I knew how to read labels and what constituted a healthy diet, he truly had no idea how to identify whether something was healthy or not. I had a lot of educating to do, but I had to do it in a way he would embrace and not reject. I couldn’t just hand him a book or point him to a blog or website because he simply wasn’t interested in digging for the information. He watched a few documentaries. We connected with a plant based doctor, who has been a tremendous help. I tried recipe after recipe trying to find things that his palate (and mine) liked. It’s been a journey. We’ve had a few rough patches and moments of re-education. He’s stuck with it and has made an amazing health transition, because he realizes how much his girls and I love him and want him to hang around and be healthy. We need him. I still have honey do’s for him. Plus, he’s just an all around good guy.
I am so incredibly proud of him.
I’m down 30 pounds from my heaviest point. He’s dropped 35 that he didn’t know he needed to lose. Blood pressures are so much better. As part of his cardiac rehabilitation program, he has adopted an exercise program that sees him on his recumbent elliptical several days a week. I’ve been on my treadmill 5 days a week since 2018. His knees and other joints hurt less. I hike up nearby “mountains” when the weather is nice. He no longer has the constant “funky” rhythm with his heart. It’s amazing was blood flow and oxygen do for proper heart function. I feel like we have changed the course of our health span and our life span.
All of this thanks to the power and nutrition of plants.