[NOTE: I started writing this post several months ago but never completed it. Decided to finish it up as it contained good insights about what I’ve been going through.]
Most of you reading this blog are aware that I suffered a fairly substantial heart attack back in late June of this year. For those not familiar, I wrote up a blog post about it here shortly after it happened so that the details would be fresh in my mind. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback and I wanted thank each and every one of you for taking the time to reach out.
As I write this Misty and I are sitting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin after enjoying the past several weeks exploring Michigan, the Upper Peninsula and now Wisconsin. Neither of us had visited either state prior. Since we are basically just killing time before my mid-October follow-up with my cardiologist, we have spent more time than we may have otherwise in these states. I’m grateful for that as we’ve had the opportunity to see some truly beautiful things! Check out our Facebook page for images!
So as I mentioned we are making our way back to Evansville for my three month follow-up with my doctor. So what has it been like for me three months after having a heart attack?
To put it bluntly, things have been a lot different. By far the biggest change has been in our diet. We had to make some fairly drastic changes to our diet since I don’t really want to go through another heart attack any time soon. We decided to switch, at least for the most part, to a plant-based diet. This diet is not vegan or vegetarian as some might think. Plant-based cuts out anything non-plant, including oils. So no olive oil and things like that. It also cuts out processed foods. So even if it is technically a vegan option but it’s processed, it’s out. As you might suspect, if it comes in a box, we probably don’t eat it. Misty has done a fantastic job of cooking fresh meals solely revolving around veggies, rice and grains. We’ve lost weight and feel pretty darned good. Salt has also been cut way, way down as well. It’s easier to cut it out on a plant-based diet we have found.
Now, as I alluded to in the last paragraph, we have mostly gone plant-based. We do allow ourselves the occasional cheat meal. For example, when we were in Whitefish Point, MI we had to have some fresh caught whitefish! It was fried and delicious. In Wisconsin we had to have some cheese curds. Fried and delicious. Moderation is the key here. Now that we are in Milwaukee we are going to be doing some brewery tours and as such having some brews. I rarely drink at home anymore so at most I have two beers here and there while dining out (a rarity) or visiting a local micro brew pub.
We exercise by walking and biking. We walk for on hour about four to five times a week. This generally means we get in over three miles. We try to walk a fairly decent rate to keep the heart rate elevated to at least 20 beats per minute higher than resting. We got new bikes recently as well and since they are much more comfortable to ride, we find ourselves using them more. We packed our mountain bikes with us all over the US and only used them a few times. These new bikes we plan to use several times a week.
As one might suspect, I’m also on a lot of medications. Well, a lot for me anyway. I’m on a blood thinner, a beta blocker, baby aspirin and cholesterol medicine. The main issues I’ve found with my medications is with the beta blocker. It really seems to hold me back for lack of a better way to explain it. I just feel like I’m working at 80% all the time and I hear this is a fairly common issue with these types of medicines. I also bruise super easy so I’ve got them on my legs and arms and have absolutely no idea how any of them got there. Luckily I should only be on these medications for a year or so. The cholesterol medicine and baby aspirin I will likely be on for life.
Those are the physical changes that we’ve made but I’ve started to realize there were some mental changes as well. It has taken some time for me to realize it, but the heart attack seems to have really taken the wind out of both of our sails. I think there are many facets to the reasoning with the most obvious being that we had to change our plans and head back “home”. We were both really excited about visiting Washington and Oregon and continuing our exploration of California and then spending the winter in southern Arizona. Instead we high tailed it back to Indiana and then stuck close until my three month follow-up. While Michigan and Wisconsin were wonderful and new to us, it wasn’t the northwest. So I think we just had an overall feeling of being disappointed.
If I’m honest with myself, there is often a lingering fear now too. A fear that I’ll do something to cause another heart attack. Silly, I know, but when you get kinda close to death like I did I guess it can play with your head a bit. For the most part, I keep all of this in check very well and do NOT let it stop me from doing anything. I’m just being honest by saying the thoughts are there in the back of my mind fairly often.
So that’s my new normal. I’m not complaining, I’m glad to be here and living life to the fullest.
UPDATE: Since writing this article it has been around seven months since my heart attack. Pretty much everything mentioned above still holds true. The beta blocker doesn’t seem to affect me as much now though. The bruising is still a constant issue. We are still eating well (with the cheat day exceptions but even then it’s usually somewhat decent, we haven’t had fast food at all) and exercising. So all-in-all, I feel I’m doing fairly well.