ALL FUCKING GOOD!
It’s been almost exactly 3 yers since my brush with the Widow Maker and I’ve been reflecting a log this year on life, goals and health.
During May and June I had my yearly bloodwork, nuclear stress test and heart echo. These are the standard yearly tests for someone who’s had a heart attack and are the top of the line – it doesn’t get any better. And while they are not perfect, coupled with my vitals and bloodwork by all accounts I’m all healed up!
- My heart rate is way down. It was around 138/85 range but the average is now 110/73. It still goes higher than I’d like from time to time and I think working out more consistently will help.
- I’ve lost over 30 pounds and will lose 20-30 more. I suspect my numbers will be even better then.
- My heart images look the same at rest as they do stressed. That means they are functioning optimally and there’s really no room for improvement there. That’s as good as anyone can hope for.
- My heart echo all looked good. I’m one of the lucky one’s who’s scar got a little better vs getting a little worse.
- All my bloodwork is with the normal range. Most are right in the middle. Cholesterol is just a blip outside the normal range but they said at my age that’s pretty normal. But I know that’ll be better next time too.
How did I do any of this? Magic! There’s a spell in a tome from the old world. No, you know how I did it. Everyone knows. Nobody wants to hear it but they know.
- I walked. A lot. Like an hour a day 6 days a week. As fast as I could for as long as I could stand it. Not everyone is going to like this. I don’t love it. I make it better by watching something or listening to an audio book but the feeling of doing the same thing over and over for long periods of time is my idea of hell. So this is hell. And I do it anyway.
- I lift weights. I like this part. I’ve always liked lifting. I’m not “strong”. But I’m working on my muscles. I’m not pushing lots of weight, 25 lb dumbbells are the heaviest thing I’ll probably own. I don’t need more for the kind of exercise I do. I do squats and lunges because they are big muscles and burn lots of calories, even at rest. I work my core because holy shit that burn feels good the next day. I hate every second of it and love the pain after. I can’t explain it. I’m not saying I’m perfect at this, I still have a long way to go. But I’m more than half way there. I feel fucking great already.
- I eat better. I don’t eat perfect and I refuse to even try. I’d rather die. Fuck that, we only get a small sliver of time, maybe a little more if we are lucky. I’m not going to just suffer through it just to get a little more time. That’s where I draw the line. If you’ve read my blog, you may know my feelings about and relationship to time already. But I do eat healthy. I just don’t always eat healthy. I mostly eat healthy. Most weeks I’m around 70% vegetarian. Even when I eat meat, it’s much smaller portion. I avoid anything that’s overly processed by humans (so bread, pasta, sandwich meats, etc.). The closer it is to it’s natural form the better. I eat lots of veggies, fruits, nuts, berries and that kind of thing. There’s some great little cheats out there, like low carb tortillas that let you have some fun with your food still as well. I’m not here to teach that, just to say it’s possible and it’s science based. I can still do better in this department and by my next checkup in March I plan on being at least 20 pounds down again, if not the whole 30.
I lost 67 pounds once before. When my wife was sick with cancer and we had some of the worst things in our life going on all at once I got depressed and shoveled food into the void until I din’t recognize myself one day. And decided to do something about it. Extreme, prolonged stress is my weakness. Short bursts are fine but if it goes on for long enough, everyone is going to break. And I did. So I lost the weight, from 240 down to 172.
Keeping it off is the hard part. The science backs this up. But I kept it off for over 5 years which is on the high side statistically. But long series of misfortunes hit and unknown to me my heart was blocked at 85-90% I lost all energy to do anything physical. I gained a good chunk of it back. But, again, I’m almost halfway back down! I’ll get there in the next 4-6 months.
There is a trick though. Or spell if you will, since everyone want’s this to be magic. You can’t do just one or two of the things. You’ll get some results but you won’t get the results you want and you’ll lose motivation. It’s all of them together. That’s the only way it works. And you must do it over a long period of time. The longer the better. This is why one cheat day doesn’t mean anything because 95% of the time you eat healthy. That’s still a lot of fun little cheats to make life enjoyable and if you learn to cook and order healthy meals you can gain a healthier relationship with food. And I can’t stress enough how much diet plays a role here. You can workout all you want and never lose weight until you get your diet under control.
Here is a simple rule to remember: diet is for weight loss and exercise is for the health benefits. All burned calories help, but the quantity and quality of food you eat is the absolute key to winning this fight.
Genetics play a role too, an outsized role in fact. My wife can eat almost anything and gain no weight. I can eat almost nothing and I will absorb solar radiation and convert it to fat. It’s not fair but them’s the breaks.
Overall I’m happier and healthier than I’ve been since before the heart attack and I know as time passes this will only improve. I’m in this for the long haul. Ever day since the heart attack is an extra day that I didn’t get. My mom died at 43 from a related issue, she died of an aneurysm (on my birthday). I had my heart attack at 46. Three years ago and three more years than she got. I still miss her but both of these things add up to remind me that every day is special. Every extra day is worth celebrating and doing something good with the time. Spending it with family, enjoying life and creating more is how I’m choosing to spend my extra time. You never know when your timer is going to run out to make every bit of it count.
I’m not a doctor and not giving you medical advice. I’m just telling you what I did with the help of my doctors. You should consult your doctor too. Everyone is different. Men are especially stubborn about doctors. Go get your check ups every year and speak up if you have ANY issues. It could literally save your life.
With any luck we all have a bit more time. I plan on using mine wisely and making things I want to see in the world in the form of software and art. How about you? What are you doing with the gift of time? Don’t waste it.