Rookie Heart Patient Mistakes
Me, I’m the rookie here. I’ve only had the diagnosis of heart disease and heart damage (leaking valve) for about 6 years now. One of the mistakes I made against my doctor’s strict warnings was to take my blood pressure early and often. And just like they said it would, the numbers would fluctuate wildly from day to day. So here’s the first bit of advice, if you want to check your blood pressure that’s fine, but do yourself a big favor and only check it once every other week or so.
Our heart rates fluctuate as crazy as a stock market ticker during a hotbed political season from hour to hour and from day to day. You might ask yourself why that is, and the best answer I have is: your mental and emotional state. If you think about it your own days are very much up and down, highs, lows, peaks and valleys as new information comes to you, either the kind that arises as insight, or the kind that comes from outside sources, like friends, work, or family—especially family.
You get a nice raise at work; peak. You don’t get a raise; dip. You receive news about something you’ve been looking forward to: tickets to the concert, your auto loan was approved, your wife got pregnant for real this time, and so on—all peaks. I don’t need to give examples of more dips, do I? Your most hated political candidate gets closer to being in office.
Just reading these words your heart rate is bouncing around like a kids rubber ball in a gymnasium. That’s the way it goes. We’d like to think we have ultimate control over our bodies, and to some extent we may have quite a bit of control, however, when it comes to our hearts, we’re really not in charge.
I just saw my cardiologist recently and he is giving me 4 months to get my long term blood pressure and heart rate under control. If I am not successful by June 8th, I’ll have to go on the medication he wants me to take (ramipril). So you might have seen the twitter feed on the right hand side of my blog, and it shows every once in a while my stats for how many steps I take. It does this automatically for me, but I don’t see it doing this every day. I normally hit about 10k steps per day, but not always. After all life leads us away from our treasured activities when we least want it to.
If only walking could reverse heart disease! (Of course walking is powerful, and I do it a lot, but on its own it's not enough to reverse heart disease). My diet is radically changing. The lower the salt, the better off I’ll be. The more regular cardiovascular exercise, the more improved my chances of not taking more drugs I’ll get.
Here are the mistakes I've made recently --if you or someone you know suffers from heart disease, point them here so they can steer clear of my poor example.
- Not keeping up with a proper food diary. I recommend MyFitnessPal for iPhone and Android.
- Drinking coffee if it raises your BP too high. (I'm weening off it even now. Do the coffee test!)
- Not enough cardio. I admit it's difficult to get to the gym some days. (Get to the gym and do walk/running on the treadmill, biking--or real biking preferably--or the elliptical.)
- High salt diet. Until recently I was taking in way too much salt. Learn more about low sodium diet guidelines.
It's not too late to change habits and take a turn towards your health. People may complain about the cost of health care, but the real health care begins with what you do or don't put in your body to begin with. The first finger we point should be directed at ourselves. We're responsible for what we eat or don't eat, for what we do or don't do, and how we go about making sincere changes for our ongoing health. If you think this applies only to heart patients, think again. Over time we stress our bodies out beyond capacity and wonder why we get certain problems that occur, aching joints, dizzy spells when climbing a flight of stairs, restless nights of sleep, and the list continues.
With all these mistakes I've made (and even worse in the past) I have picked up some good habits along the way. I've started eating right, going to the gym more regularly, taking medications as prescribed (the necessary ones until others are proven necessary), doing healing work, on myself, and others, being thankful for such an amazing body that has done its best to accommodate my unpredictable and silly behavior over the years. I am thankful every day that I have such a strong heart that it continues to beat while being damaged and keeps me going when I ask of it so much. Our hearts are extraordinary, so fragile, yet strong, so endlessly capable and enduring. I like to thank my physical beating heart for its loving service to keep my body alive every day. Gratitude, when it’s authentic, is mysterious and powerful. It’s also deeply healing.
This post is not exactly autobiographical, I know, but there is more—so much more. See you in the next one!