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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's Only Just My Husband.....Uh, No. The Duggar Experience and The Guy at the Next Table

Post stent, I walk around look at other men who are around the same age as my husband, especially those sitting at the table next to us at the buffet restaurant (where we eat only low-fat plant based foods), and see the plates piled high with smokies, fried chicken, hamburgers, cheesecake, ice cream, and pizza.

I see the obvious signs of metabolic syndrome, the hard pooched out abdomen. I ask myself, "how are they getting away with this?"  My dh never ate to that kind of excess, but he still ate standard American diet (SAD) foods during the business hours,  probably twice a week, when he had lunch meetings with co-workers, and developed heart disease at an early age, nonetheless.

I felt a little validated last night when I watched the Duggar episode in season 11 on Amazon when Josh and Jim Bob, wisely decide to get a cardiologist conducted physical.  Kudos to them for being proactive.  I've seen the grilling hot dog episodes, the pizza parlor visits, etc., and have wondered, "How does Jim Bob do it?  How does he escape what I think is inevitable....heart disease?".

 But, to my validation, in the fitness challenge episode, he and Josh both get bad news.  Josh already, at age 25 has metabolic syndrome and a sentence to Type 2 Diabetes by the time he is 35, and Jim Bob has a total cholesterol of 241 with a LDL of 143!!!!!  DH was never that high, topping out at 235, but averaging 198, below the recommended amount.

It is too bad that most Americans are living from one meal to the next off of rich cholesterol rising foods, but, again, kudos to the Duggars for being proactive.Who has the guts to visit a cardiologist before the health crisis comes?  Most people are afraid of cardiologists and afraid the cardiologist will brush them off or laugh at them because they have come for an appointment, not having had a crisis to prompt.  Cardiologists do want to help their patients prevent a heart event and respect those who are proactive.  Also, I think most people who should visit one are afraid to visit one for fear of bad news.  I know I was afraid.

When I was having chest pains 1 1/2 years ago, which turned out to be GERD, I was terribly afraid to go for fear the doctor would tell me I needed heart surgery, but the cardiologist was very kind, took all of the necessary tests, and I went home relieved that my heart was fine, and narrowed down my condition to a more treatable condition (which was also treated with a low-fat plant based diet).

Seeing a cardiologist, as a preventive measure is very helpful to find out if you are at risk, but most of them don't know what makes you heart attack proof, so one needs to go for the diagnosis and then learn all he/she can about the right kind of diet to accomplish the best heart protection.

Fortunately, I was also in the queue with my cardiologist, but dh still didn't see him pre-crisis.

But, now he is proactive and more proactive than anyone I know being followed for high cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

Every three months he goes to Walgreen's and gets his blood tested, and then passes on the numbers to his cardiologist, who has now lowered his Simvastatin to the lowest amount he feels comfortable without risking the destabilization of the plaques that were there, pre-2013.  He is now down to 20 mg., and completely off of his Bystolic, and Lisinopryl.  When does that ever happen?  He is proactive, and doesn't believe in the "pill cures everything" mindset that many Americans have these days.  I am so grateful to him for taking charge!

I hope my favorite TV family stumbles on to this blog someday so they can learn what it takes to keep those numbers down. It's not just a matter of throwing away the marshmallows and the jelly beans. It's also throwing away the oils, the meats, the cheese, the dairy, the flours, the sugars, the salt, and adding the vegetables, legumes, whole fruits, and whole grains.  It's educating one's self on the studies, and advice given by Dean Ornish, M.D., John McDougall, M.D., Neal Barnard, M.D., and most importantly, Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D who have demonstrated success in heart attack prevention without medication.

 To get the cholesterol to the heart attack proof level, it means going on a low-fat plant based diet, giving up those rich foods that are so much a part of the culture in the south.

Many think keeping a heart attack "at bay" means going on heart protective medications and that it's not necessary to change the diet.  According to the Mayo Clinic, these medications reduce the risk of a heart attack, but there are many side effects, and for further prevention they advocate diet, exercise, and stress reduction.  The medications help, but they don't offer a guarantee, and they don't make you feel well.  Metatoprolol and Bystolic, the blood pressure medications take away a man's adrenaline drive to exercise,  Simvastatin causes muscle aches and pains, blood thinners increase risk of bruising and bleeding.  To feel good, one needs to be off of the medications, on a heart attack proof diet, and able to exercise.

We believe DH could totally get off of the Simvastatin, as well, but his cardiologist would not do it without proof from an angiogram that his heart disease has reversed.  We believe it has because he has circulation in areas of the body where he has not had circulation in several years, but beings that the angiogram is so invasive he is stuck with the low dose of Simvastatin.

 But, back to the topic of the guy at the next table.....I'm grateful to learn that dh suffered from a condition that is not unique to him, not that I'm happy that most Americans sitting next to us at the buffet probably have metabolic syndrome and/or diabetes, or heart disease, and are ticking time bombs, and maybe walking around on heart medications already to prevent what happened to dh, but what is important is to know that just because the guy next to you at the buffet can eat a 5" deep plate of orange chicken without guilt doesn't mean he's not having issues.  Therefore, we need not yield to peer pressure, or compare ourselves with others who seem to be getting away with it, because most likely, they aren't.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

First Year Anniversary After Stent Placement

Yesterday DH celebrated his first year anniversary of the placement of his first stent.  Looking back, we would say the procedure was a success.  He is a totally different man today than he was a year ago.  Fifty-five pounds lighter, and energetic.  Last week he installed a 700 foot gravel road leading to our property, and today he is building garden boxes for a terrace hillside vegetable garden.

He continues to amaze his healthcare providers with excellent numbers, has been taken off of his blood pressure medications, and hopes to be taken off of his statins next week.  With a total cholesterol of 105, the pharmacist encourages the discussion with the doctor to take him off.

A year later, and looking back, I would have to say to those people who advocate stent placement, and medical treatment with heart medications, there's more.  Medical treatment is not the only treatment out there.  Look into following a low fat, whole foods, plant based diet, such as the one advocated by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., and Dr. John McDougall.

To my religiously zealous low-fat plant based diet friends who have been shredding former U.S. President George W. Bush for deciding to go ahead with a stent placement for his heart blockage found in a routine exam, which we now know was a 95% blockage, do not criticize a heart patient for submitting to stent placement.  You do not know the pain and disability they experience when an artery has that much blockage.  Until you have experienced it yourself, you have no right to judge.

From my experience, the marriage between the two routes is highly successful, and responsible care providers and nutritional counselors help their clients and patients best when they really care enough more about listening and caring for their patients, than trying to move their cause ahead.

I have to give huge kudos to our cardiologist.  He understands the importance of that marriage of complimentary treatments and thank you to him for providing us with a swift and accurate diagnosis, and speedy help for relief by arranging treatment through Dr. Mark Tannenbaum, our interventionalist.  And thank you to him and Rachel Unruh, who has followed him this past year for listening carefully to our wishes for DH to follow a low-fat plant based diet for part of his treatment, and for adjusting the medications as his numbers have shown improvement.

We feel blessed to have the best support team that one can have.  We hope others will read our posts, and with humility consider the improvements they can make to support heart patients through caring and good listening as they develop alternative health practices, nutritional counseling, and medical treatments to support a successful outcome for all heart patients.