It’s been six months since Bill was given the shocking news he had heart disease and could suffer a massive heart attack anytime! That was what the radiologist told him on December 15, 2016. We will never forget that day – and now we join the club of understanding what it is like when your world is ROCKED with a health diagnosis that wasn’t expected.
We would like to be encouragers to others who also might get a horrific diagnosis, whether heart, cancer or some other life threatening diagnosis. Both of our fathers and my step dad succumbed to cancer – so we have intimately walked the cancer journey and that was really our fear – never heart disease. While on our current journey to better health, and to reverse his heart disease (YES, that is possible), we have stumbled across the fact that our new low sodium Hearth Healthy Diet (whole foods, very few processed foods, lean meat, lots of fresh vegetables, and fruit is now our dessert – and we’ve eliminated man-made sugar) is also a GREAT cancer preventative diet – as well as is what is recommended for cancer patients by the American Cancer Association.
We now understand that it feels like – it is shocking! In fact, he doesn’t remember the two days after he got the news. He was actually numb. The most important lesson we learned is that your doctor is not paid to be your friend, he or she is paid to prescribe you medicine to heal you or slow down the disease or to perform the surgery needed to remove whatever disease that can be surgically removed and/or subscribe other treatments, such as radiation.
Upon being diagnosed, you are then given more information than you can absorb, how will the disease affect your life and what your next steps are. For us, we were blessed that Bill’s brother and wife are both RNs and have dealt with heart disease personally. They became our mentors. And then the new cardiologist the Radiology center found for us was about the best doctor we’ve ever met. No matter what we were told, the most important lesson we learned is that if you are diagnosed, you are your own best advocate, researcher and finder of facts. I will say, most men aren’t very good at this from my experience in our families.
I couldn’t fathom how Bill would handle this. But he took ownership of it! He began to research what it meant, what he needed to do and how he had to take full responsibility for his journey to good health. Fortunately, his NEW cardiologist stays up on the latest information and set the tone for Bill. He suggested what Bill “should do” (radically change his diet and exercise for a cardio workout) and told him to do his research! The burden was then on Bill – he had to drastically change his diet.
The next lesson we learned is that “food is medicine.” From Dr. Axe’s website:
Hippocrates was to thank for the famous quote, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” — which we translated to “food is medicine” and use as our motto. Still to this day medical doctors and historians consider Hippocrates to be the founder of medicine as a “rational science.” Considered to be one of the most influential figures in the history of medicine and healing, Hippocrates was ahead of his time when, around the year 400 B.C, he advised people to prevent and treat diseases first and foremost by eating a nutrient-dense diet. Why is a calorie not just a calorie when it comes to your health, and how come it matters so much which types of foods you get your calories from? Foods provide us with energy (calories), but they do much more than that. The foods you include in your diet also play a critical role in controlling inflammation levels, balancing blood sugar, regulating cardiovascular health (including blood pressure and cholesterol levels), helping the digestive organs to process and eliminate waste, and much, much more.
Ugh, this sounds boring, doesn’t it? Not if your life depends on it! Neither Bill nor I were very good in biology. Although we both were good students, but much of what we had to learn was above our “pay grade!” But Bill’s life depended on it – and in time, I realized so did mine!
We had heard about controlling inflammation levels – but that didn’t really hit home until the diagnosis. Bill did feel hypoglycemic from time to time, so balancing blood sugar was a new thing he had to learn about as he learned in addition to heart disease, he was also insulin resistant. And of course, now cardiovascular health is his #1 priority. So let’s look at one other “boring” topic – that is lifesaving! Quoting from the same source:
Perhaps more than anything else in our lives, the foods we regularly eat help determine whether or not we will become ill, or remain healthy into older age. Whether vegetables, fruit, meat, oils or grains, foods contain influential substances including antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, fiber and much more.
Phytonutrients???? What’s that? Let’s click over to another section of Dr. Axe’s website:
Phytonutrients are nutrients found in plants that develop to protect the plant from damaging environments. Plants are exposed to excess ultraviolet radiation, predator pests, toxins and pollution, resulting in the generation of dangerous free radicals within their cells. These free radicals can then bind and damage proteins, cell membranes and DNA of the plant.
Fortunately, phytonutrients simultaneously develop to shield the plant from such damage as well as provide their color, flavor and smell. Why is this important to us? Since we are exposed to radiation and various environmental elements just like plants, we need phytonutrients to protect us.
How do we get phytonutrients? We get them by eating the plants! Each plant contains tens of thousands of different phytonutrients that can act as antioxidants, hence it’s key to eat high-antioxidant foods in order to fight free radical damage.
And guess who else wants to weigh in on our diets?
The American Cancer Society defines phytonutrients or phytochemicals as:
plant compounds like carotenoids, lycopene, resveratrol and phytosterols that are thought to have health-protecting qualities. They are found in plants such as fruits and vegetables, or things made from plants, like tofu or tea. Phytochemicals are best taken in by eating the foods that contain them rather than taking the supplements or pills.
So this is now the foundation for our new way of life. The next thing we learned was how bad two food additives are to ALL of our diets! Granted, with the population explosion, feeding the world is getting more and more difficult. So what to do? Food additives to stretch the food supply. Thus our focus is on eating whole foods and minimizing processed foods. We’ve learned that SOY can play havoc with our hormones (this is another whole blog, but for more, read here) and it is in SO MANY processed foods. Thus, we are eliminating as many as we can. If we must buy something processed, we check the ingredients. The other food additive is SUGAR we now avoid. Even artificial sweeteners as your body doesn’t really know the difference, it processes both the same. Our new sweets are our fruits – natural sugar from fruits and vegetables (yep) are good for you and are part of the “whole” foods mentioned earlier.
Sugar – is it bad or good for you? This is probably the most important thing anyone who wants better health, anyone who has been diagnosed with heart disease or cancer, needs to understand the facts around “added” sugar. We received this information a few months ago from another source. But Dr. Axe sure spells it out nicely, with links to additional information and footnotes:
Most people blame dietary fat for heart disease. And while certain industrial, inflammatory fats like trans fats do cause heart attacks, sugar is the real culprit. In fact, in 2016, researchers unearthed a huge sugar industry scandal, proving that the sugar lobby sponsored phony Harvard research in the 1960s. Turns out the sugar lobby paid Harvard researchers to take the heat off of sugar’s health effects, instead turning the focus on naturally occurring fats’ supposed role in heart disease. (1)
This faulty “research” concluded there was “no doubt” that the only dietary intervention required to prevent coronary heart disease was to eat less cholesterol and to eat polyunsaturated fat instead of saturated fat. (2)
We now know this is not true. In 2014, researchers were able to scientifically show that ingesting too much added sugar could significantly increase your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. In fact, people getting 17 to 21 percent of calories from added sugar face a 38 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who got just 8 percent of their calories from sugar. The relative risk was more than double for those who consumed 21 percent or more of their calories from added sugar. (3)
So how are we doing after six months? Fantastic! We have both adapted to our new way of eating, which has become second nature to us. We are committed to it and are looking forward to Bill’s next check up in August. Bill was pushing his way out of a size 36 waist and I was pushing myself out of size 12 clothes. To be realistic, we never feel we are on a diet or that we are trying to lose weight – it just happened. We finally had to buy some clothes as ours were literally falling off. Bill has lost 50 pounds (now size 32-33) and I’ve lost 25 (now size 6). As I wrote in my last post about my heart disease, I was an expert at losing – and gaining weight. I can say, this is different – it has not been a “diet” it is now a lifestyle.
Is any of this new information for you? What has been your experience? Are we late in getting on this band wagon, or are we on to something?
We want to encourage others to “think outside the box” to not just accept the diagnosis. Ask what more can you do to help your “condition.” Ask about nutrition. We are convinced there is a correlation between disease and diet….
And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. Genesis 1:29 ESV