I thought the best place to start would be at the beginning. I have always tried to be healthy. Besides the occasional dip into junk food or prepared meals, I have overall eaten healthy, or so I thought. Over the years I developed white-ish deposits under my eyes. At one point I remember asking the doctor about them. The doctor told me they meant that at one point my cholesterol had been high and those were cholesterol deposits. The doctor also assured me that my numbers looked good at that time so I shouldn’t worry. I went along through life not thinking about it.
A few years later I started to have trouble climbing stairs. I would get short of breath, my heart would race, I would feel pressure in my chest. I got worried. Heart disease runs in my family so I went to a specialist to try and figure it all out. They put me through all the standard tests, the blood work, the EKG, the stress test and nothing showed a problem. They sent me home with a portable monitor, but that proved fruitless as well. I remember sitting in my cardiologist’s office in 2008. It was at Mass General Hospital in Boston. My doctor was baffled. He came up with an idea. He hooked me up to a small monitor and told me we would go for a walk. He held the monitor so he could watch what my heart was doing. We walked down a hall, nothing changed. He suggested we walk up the stairs. We got up to the landing about a flight and a half up when he told me to stop right away. My heart had definitely shown him what was happening. He had seen it on the monitor and was very concerned. He said that if we had kept going I was in danger of a heart attack. Now it was a matter of figuring out what was causing this problem. He told me the monitor had shown him an arrhythmia. Climbing those stairs had caused tachycardia. Now he could work from there to figure out why. Unfortunately, some circumstances in my life had prompted a huge life change and I moved far away before I was able to get a diagnosis. I hadn’t seen another cardiologist after that.
Fast forward a few years. In 2018 I started doing a lot of hiking. I was used to walking many miles when I lived in the city and had no issue with that. However, I started noticing that on hikes in the wilderness, when I had to climb elevation I was having the same problem I had been having a decade before. I started to get concerned. I took precautions and practiced my breathing, stopped when I had to. I decided to modify my diet. I ended up going on the keto diet (more on that in another post). It was rough to start but easy to maintain. I felt great on it, and had a lot more energy. I noticed that I had more brain power, memory and concentration than I had previously. I also had a significant weight loss and a reduction in the amount of these heart episodes. I felt like I had found the holy grail. However, the holidays happened and I fell out of keto. I tried to go back but could never quite succeed at it.
In 2020 the pandemic hit. As with many people, I stress ate. I gained weight. I ate things that were not so healthy. I dealt with depression and anxiety. I dealt with employment issues. I dealt with the death of my mother. I dealt with the start and end of a roller coaster relationship. I dealt with my first Christmas alone and my first birthday alone. 2020 was not a good year. It wasn’t all bad, but it was definitely not a good year. One of the high points was at the end of November. A rescue dog found his way into my life. Owning a dog and not having a fenced in yard meant that I had to start doing a lot of walking. There are acres of woods behind my house, but I have to climb a hill to get to them. Walking the dog meant that I was climbing this hill multiple times a day. I noticed the heart problem every single time. I would have to stop before I got to the top of the hill. The pressure in my chest had never been so strong. The pain was so much worse and there was numbness in my left side with these episodes. I started to get scared.
At the beginning of 2021 I saw a cardiologist. I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease. It has the potential of giving me a heart attack and was causing angina and some other issues. The cardiologist explained that my past blood work had shown consistently raised levels of bad cholesterol. This was where the problem was. My heart wasn’t getting enough blood due to deposits in my arteries so the stress of the walk up the hill was making my heart work too hard. My doctor recommended I not push myself too hard, that I stop and breathe as I had been. He also put me on meds to help lower my cholesterol and told me implement a new way of eating. He asked me to eliminate all animal products from my diet. The only animal products allowed would be from the sea so I could get my omegas. Lowering sodium, eliminating processed foods, white sugar and white flour were additional stipulations to this new way of eating. This was going to be a challenge. I decided that I would start posting some of the ways I overcome the challenge and still eat tasty food. Heart healthy does not have to mean bland and uninteresting. I plan on proving that!! On these pages and on my blog I will post about heart health and will post the dishes I come up with. Hopefully this can help others eat healthy too.