Taking Care of Your Heart — Physically

Almost 20 years have past. I was a in my first full-time teaching gig in Manor, and my birthday was coming around the next day. I got a call from my dad, which was not unusual. His news, though, was: He had to go in for bypass surgery in the morning. In spite of acing all his stress tests, further testing proved he had major blockages in his heart’s arteries. He was only a couple percentage points away from a heart attack. Yep. He was having emergency surgery for my birthday.

Yikes.

The surgery went well. The cardiologist actually didn’t bypass all the arteries originally on the plan. The 90+% blockages were taken care of, but once they got in there, one of the arteries wasn’t as bad as he’d thought, only 40-something%, so they left that one alone. He could take care of that one himself by changing his diet and exercise.

Dad was home a few days later with a couple interesting scars — one on his arm where they borrowed some blood vessels and one on his chest — and a big pillow to hang onto if he had to cough or sneeze. (ouch!)

Next came rehab. Dad was put on a low-fat diet. My stepmom did a little research to find one that involved low-fat but still good flavor and landed on the Mediterranean diet with its emphasis on fish, fowl, veggies, grains, and olive oil, light on the olive oil.  Red meat, gone. Poof!  Likewise fried anything and fully-leaded cheeses in major quantities. Recipe-hunting became my step-mom’s new hobby. Fortunately, my dad’s not a picky eater. He’ll try all kinds of nifty stuff.

In addition to the recipe hunting, she became a label-reader. They went to the store one night for no purpose but to read ingredient lists and check out nutrition labels. A lot of their more common snack foods and dinner options were no longer on the acceptable list. Dad did find some new snacks to try out. Some were good. Some … not.

The other half of the rehab involved exercise. Dad’s job involved sitting in the car or on a plane for hours at a time then standing up in a small space to show off stamps and coins and help customers. He still does that, but they take walks every day and keep a pedometer armed and ready to make sure they get at least 10,000 steps in. Because of his gardening hobbies, he sometimes has that done by lunch.

I was not entirely surprised to learn that many of the people in the same rehab classes with Dad were not very careful with their new diets and exercise programs. Some would show up to the session with a bag of fast food or donuts, or they’d brag about how little exercise they were getting during the week when not in class. I guess a brush with death wasn’t enough to convince them to change their habits.

Dad’s doing fine now, and I think that’s a tribute to his determination to get control of his situation. He takes great care of himself, still going for walks every day and minding his diet, eating good food, much of which he grows himself in a garden patch that’s bigger than my apartment 2-3 times.

The take home message for me? Take care of yourself. My diet is much more strict than his in some regards. With my killer food allergies, there’s a lot of  stuff I can’t eat, but what I can eat, I make in ways that are much healthier than the deep fried junk that most of my peers prefer.  I get more fats and oils in my diet than my dad does just because I have to keep a calorie count up somehow.

Exercise? That I’m not as careful about, but I work retail so I’m on the move from one end of the store to the other 5 days a week. I still manage some 6000-12,000 steps most days.

How’s your diet and exercise going?

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6 thoughts on “Taking Care of Your Heart — Physically

  1. Ron and I are focusing more on healthy as well. Have been for awhile. I walk briskly for half and hour a day, four days a week… half up hill. We also are eating better with both of us trying to lower our cholesterol. Very hard to do at fast food restaurants over the weekend. We eat well at home but want to eat quickly while out but not spend a lot of money. Me… I have to be careful with fiber as in I can’t tolerate what the average person can. Other health issues play into that one. Good for your dad and his commitment to changing his eating and exercising habits. 🙂

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    • Eating fast food and eating healthy are almost not possible simultaneously. The good news is, if you’re not dodging a gazillion food allergies, there are at least /some/ options…

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      • Yes, that is true. Also some fast food is better than others. Did Subway with Low cholesterol choices in meat and avoiding cheese today. Both of us encourage each other. My temptation is cheddar cheese and just avoiding that seems to work for me as my cholesterol is only a little above healthy, in the borderline area. His cholesterol is higher then mine but coming down over the years. I am trying to help him with do able life style changes as we don’t think Statins are a healthy alternative, after much research.

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      • I react so badly to so many different medications, I’m thinking I’ll have to do all that happy stuff through diet control. Makes things interesting when my diet is already pretty restricted.

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  2. We too have issues with sensitivities to meds. Ron is not going on a Staten….if you look at them carefully they have whole list of common horrid side effects. We would rather try to change diet. I understand your food restriction issue. That would make it even more difficult.

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