Wednesday, February 03, 2010
In October of 2008, I had only been at my new job for two weeks when I ended up at the doctor's office with a health crisis. I had the worst headache I had ever known and felt nauseated. When the nurse took my blood pressure it was 180/110. In case you don't know, that is not good. As a matter of fact those number put me at high risk for a stroke. The doctor did an in office EKG and it came back suspicious and she thought I had had a 'heart episode' of some sort and sent me to the hospital for more extensive evaluation. I was a very sick, stressed and sad girl. My doc even looked sad, and I said to her "When we know more, we can work together to change what I can and deal with what is". I was scared, I'm not going to lie.
When I went back to my office I told my new boss, Dan, that he might want to check with HR to see if there was a 'lemon clause' on my employment contract. He sat me down and gave me some fatherly advice. He told me how important it was to know my heart risk numbers and my family history. He told me of his mother who died of heart issues related to high cholesterol and his father who has a heart attack. Dan was trim and fit, he ran almost everyday, he knew he had high cholesterol and had changed his diet and was taking meds to help lower his cholesterol.
I got busy right away learning about heart health and how to lower my blood pressure. I cut down the amount of sodium and my diet and tried to walk some. I was also seeing a physical therapist for plantar fascitis so walking was painful. When the test results came back, my heart was fine! My body was retaining so much fluid from stress, poor diet, little to no exercise, and too much sodium. That fluid was pressing on every organ and tissue in my body, causing my blood pressure to be high and causing my heart to work harder than it should. Just by decreasing my sodium, I dropped 12 lbs. in two months. And I will admit, I was not motivated to make any additional changes at that time. I was complacent and satisfied with merely feeling better.
Two months later (March 2009) , I came into work on a Thursday morning to find out that Dan, my new boss, had had a catastrophic heart attack and died. He had gone out for a run (he was an avid runner) and upon returning home, he simply dropped to the floor and never regained consciousness. We would find out later that the type of heart attack he had has no warning signs, there is no recovery, it is an immediate death. Some of the cholesterol plaque in his arteries broke lose and blocked the flow from his aortic valve. He died before he even knew he was having a heart attack. He died, too young, at 61.
I only knew Dan for a short time, I was only his secretary for five months before he died. But, he left a huge impact on my life. Two months after Dan died, I was back in the doctors office this time with a cough and cold symptoms that would not go away. Ends up the cough was a side effect of the high blood pressure meds I was on and the cold symptoms and fatigue were actually because I was depressed.
My doc changed my blood pressure meds and offered my a low dose anti-depressant which I declined. I'm not against taking meds if I need them, but I could see that if I didn't start taking a more proactive role in my health care, I was quickly going to be taking more meds than I was comfortable with. So, in June 2009, I slowly starting changing my life to be one that was worth living. It was slow, but I was hopeful. I purchased a Wii Fit program. That first week, I could only stand on that balance board for six minutes before my feet were aching. But, I would do it each day after work. Each time I'd try to make myself do one minute more than I did the day before. I started to make small food changes. The first one I remember is that when we ate fast food (which was frequent), I would just get the sandwich and a bottled water, no fries, no soda. The more little changes I made, the more confident I became, the more active I became the stronger I felt. Before long I was riding my bike a couple miles a day and that grew into riding my bike 25 miles every Saturday.
It all started with a little movement and a little change, that has made the biggest difference. Today I am 67lbs. lighter. I run four days a week, I work out with a personal trainer two days a week, I'm training for a 1/2 marathon (which I will run in honor of my boss, Dan) and my blood pressure in 120/76. Next month I get to stop taking all my meds!!!