Healthy Heart: Rehab and Diet

Before you ask; no, no-one looked like that at my session.
Before you ask; no, no-one looked like that at my session.

Today was my first rehabilitation session with the Cardio group. I think that I was the youngest,  but there was one other chap (a foreigner like me) who may have been a year or two younger. Either way, he and I were the “youngsters” of the group.

Having to wait for over seven and a half months to do my rehab, I was a little excited and a bit worried. I got there way too early and felt awkward as hell sitting in the hallway while waiting for the Physiotherapist to call me and the other “heart” patients in.

When I first got there a chap with a goatee who was being wheeled into an operating theatre waved to me and said, “Oh, hi Mike.” I nodded back and then spent the next twenty minutes wondering, ‘Who in the hell was that?’ It is at times like these that my idiotic vanity about wearing my glasses frustrates me almost enough to start wearing them.

But not quite.

In the interim, more folks gathered in the hallway and we were all called in together. I and two other folks were the “noob’s” of the group and got special attention. I do not know about the other two (a chap and a woman) but I felt stupid and clumsy. Not to mention the fact that I had to slow myself down.

At first, I felt that all the exercises were too easy. I was annoyed that I’d had to spit out my nicotine gum and I was beginning to think that all this had been a complete waste of time.

Then we got to the “sitting” exercise. It’s simple. You sit on a small stool (bench) and stand up. You then repeat this process for two whole minutes. At the midway point the first time we did this exercise, I looked at the chap next to me and said, “This one is going to be the killer.”

He nodded and grinned. The second time we had to do the exercise, he looked at me and said, “Did you say this was going to be a killer?” It was my turn to grin and nod. “You’re right, ” he said, “It’s a killer.”

This will give you an idea of this "killer" exercise. Again, none of my session mates looked like this.
This will give you an idea of this “killer” exercise. Again, none of my session mates looked like this.

At the end of the session we had tea or coffee (lovely touch, that) and a fifteen minute “cool-down” period. We all chatted and asked the odd question of the three ladies who ran the rehab group. When our time was up, I grabbed my hat and jacket and  said to the group, “see you later ladies.”

My stool sitting chum grinned and said, “See you next week!”

A good start to my eight week program and one that I expect to benefit greatly from as well as enjoy as the ladies running it make this whole thing a fun experience.

My new diet is another matter entirely. My first session last week with the Cardio specialist was an exercise of a different sort. I sat there dumbfounded for most of it. The reason?

Well:

Tuna fish in a tin (can) has no Omega 3. Zero. Zip. It’s something to do with the canning process. If it isn’t fresh (and who can afford that on a regular basis, I ask you) it isn’t healthy.

Salmon, mackerel, sardines, pilchards and kippers all are chock-a-block (full) of the stuff; tinned or otherwise. Now the only thing wrong with this list is that I only really like sardines and pilchards. So it’s going to be the Omega 3 supplements for me I’m afraid. Everything else is too damned fishy and oily.

Salad for my main meal (tea in this country, dinner in the US) is okay, but, it needs to be full of peppers, onions, carrots, et al, for it to be of any real benefit. This new fad of “5 a day” that is being almost literally shoved down our throats dictates that even loaded with the maximum of goodies, salad does not even equal one of that five.

Okay! I heard you the first time!
Okay! I heard you the first time!

I did explain that after my heart attack and surgeries that I did not eat that much. It is pretty much impossible for me to have five of anything per day! I also pointed out that if I increased my food intake, my “measurements” for the healthy zone were going to be shot.

On the positive side, I was told that my occasional ingestion of eggs and low-salt, low-fat bacon was okay. That my move away from meat as my main staple, while not necessary, was nonetheless helpful. I was also told that low-salt was a misnomer because no matter how high the salt content is, it is still salt.

I was also told to stop eating the fancy (spelled expensive) margarine since to get it to actually lower my cholesterol I’d have to eat gallons of it. A good old olive oil based margarine was just as efficient and cheaper.

As I sit here feeling comfortably healthy and full from my mackerel and toast snack, I am looking forward to my next week’s session and my salad for tea.

Perhaps I can work up to this “5-a-day” requirement, but, I’m not holding my breath.

Photo on 26-04-2013 at 10.10

Healthy Heart Tip: Change Your Eating Habits

images

As part of my daily exercise regimen, I walk around my neighbourhood. Generally I walk to my local shop and have a browse in the Charity shop next to it. Now I’ve been getting faster and faster at these walks and my back is slowly but surely getting used to them.

Today, however, my walk did not go quite the way I envisioned it.

I’ll explain.

For years now, I have not eaten breakfast when I wake up in the morning. I don’t as a rule eat “brunch” either if I’ve overslept. As I am not a cheerful early riser nor am I what could be called a “morning person” I cannot stand the idea of eating after I’ve just awakened from a deep sleep.

Which means that I usually subsist on two meals a day and the odd snack. This has always suited me right down to the ground.

Until after the heart attack.

Because my body is still “healing” itself, it’s obviously using a lot of energy to do so. This extra calorie burn is great, I’m actually thinner than I’ve been in years.  But because of this “constant” energy usage by my bodies self-generation of cells and so on, my energy level is lower than what I’ve always assumed was normal.

*And yes, I do know the saying about assume, thank you.*

This morning when I got up, after a fascinating dream about meeting Ernest Borgnine in Hot Springs Arkansas, I had my usual two cups of coffee with milk and sugar. I then did pretty much what I do every morning; I read my mail, checked my e-mail and because it’s Friday today, I did my Twitter shout-outs.

English: Ernest Borgnine at the Creative Arts ...

I then decided to have my walk early today. I threw on my “outside” clothes, got my boots and hat and went striding out the door at a fairly moderate pace.

I felt great until I reached my local shop. I had detoured by the Charity Shop (and still felt fine) and then went in to get a few things. By this time I started feeling a bit shaky. My energy level dropped below basement level and it was a struggle to collect, purchase, and bag my few items.

As i walked shakily out of the shop, I realised that I’d not had anything to eat. Obviously, the two coffees I’d gulped down earlier were not sufficient to keep me going. With a sigh of defeat, I took the bus back to my house.

After having a lovely repast of two granary rolls with ham, cucumber and coleslaw (light coleslaw I might add) and a multivitamin, my energy level began to climb back up.

While cleaning up my dishes, I realised that I was going to have to change the eating habit of a lifetime and start having three meals a day. Earlier in the week, I’d been having two crumpets in the morning and then two other small meals later in the day. At no time during the first days of the week did I feel week or shaky.

I’d already changed my diet after leaving the hospital. Cutting way back on my meat consumption, cutting out most saturated fats, eating  foods high in antioxidants, et al. But I did not change the number of times during the day that I stoke up the old energy engine.

As I’ve always managed to cope quite well with the amount of meals I’d eaten most of my adult life, I saw no need to change this particular habit. But obviously I should have.

Sitting here writing this post out, I’m still a bit tired and will probably take a short nap to allow my body to re-charge itself after my quick energy draining walk this morning.

It’s hard to remember to play by the “new” rules after you’ve had a “life changing” event. But I like to think I’m smart enough to learn from my mistakes. At least I hope I am.

I’m sure that most of you out there are smart enough to not be so “unaware” of what you need to do to keep your self healthy and well, but just in case you are, like me, a bit slow on the uptake, remember to change not just what you eat, but when and how much.

It might not make you live any longer, but it may save you the internal embarrassment of having to take the bus back on your healthy heart walk.

energy
energy (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

So Long Taste Buds My Old Friends

Slightly better than connect the dots.

So, it’s been over a month now since my ‘life changing’ heart attack and resultant two surgeries (one of which was an emergency). My scars are now looking more like pink ‘stretch-marks‘ and less like a Frankenstein cross-stitch. I have lost weight (this is a good thing according to my doctor) and I’ve got my first follow on appointment with my cardiologist/surgeon.

I no longer smoke cigarettes, relying instead on nicotine patches and ‘harmless’ e-cigs which have no nicotine and gives me the ‘placebo’ of inhaling something non carcinogenic and that isn’t just air. So far my cravings for the old demon weed is non-existent. To be honest though, the best deterrent in the world is that sensation of acute pain brought on by a heart attack.

When I was discharged from the hospital, my cardiologist explained that I could eat whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted. I was ‘healing’ she said and my body needed all the nutrients it could get. My new diet would start later after I’d gotten back on my feet.

What no-one explained was that when I first got out of the hospital, everything I ate would taste like ash. Salt, which had been my lifelong friend, burned my mouth and other spicy things that I had grown to love now tasted horrid. I soldiered on and kept trying to eat to heal.

Unfortunately, the other thing no one warned me about was my loss of appetite. Oh my spirit was willing alright, but, the room just wasn’t there. It’s like they’d taken my stomach in an inch or two while they worked on my leaky pipes and clogged arteries. I just didn’t have enough space in there to eat anywhere near the amount I used to.

But good things come to those who wait and my taste buds soon regained their old habits (except for the salt thing, it still burns my mouth). I started craving certain spices and foods that had long been on my favorite list.

Then?

Tragedy struck.

I went to my first appointment with my local cardiologist. It had been decided that my recuperating period was over. Now I had to start eating healthily and I needed to avoid foods that I’d eaten all my life.

Steak, bacon, pork chops, cheese (unless it’s in the form of cottage cheese) and most forms of red meat were verboten.  Butter, chips (aka french fries) anything fried (unless it was done in olive oil and then only lightly) or anything that even remotely resembled tasty food.

My recovering heart sank as the list of bad foods got longer. I could see a future of tofu, soybean meat substitutes and vegetables that I don’t even like to look at let alone eat.

I was given a list of ‘heart clubs’ and a couple of booklets with ‘healthy dishes’ in them for future reference. I also had been told I needed to contact these clubs for support. I felt that I’d been sentenced to a life of bland.

I don’t know what it is, but they say it tastes like chicken.

Fortunately for me, I don’t eat that much red meat. Chicken is eaten on a regular basis. Fish is eaten quite a lot as well, but not in the oily category. Mackerel, Herring and  Eel are too smelly and rich for my taste buds. Tuna and sardines are alright but I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat them.

I haven’t been brave enough to look at all the recipes in the booklet yet. I have had a glance or two inside one and the first thing I noticed was a cheerful picture of an aubergine aka eggplant. My blood curdled. If ever there was a more disgusting tasting vegetable than the eggplant (actually as I set writing this, I think that cooked celery might just tie the aubergine for disgusting)…

Don’t get me wrong, I do like vegetables and quite a lot of them. Unfortunately the way I like my veg is drenched in salt and butter. Neither of which is on my list of foods to eat.

I know, I’m moaning and whining about a very little thing here. It was my prior eating habits and lifestyle that got me hospital bound to start with. I will say though, with not a trace of embarrassment or regret, it does seem like I’m still being penalized for that old life style.

It sort of makes me think of that old joke. You know the one, I’m sure. An old guy is setting outside the town’s barbershop and he’s telling a group of young men how to live longer. “You don’t smoke, drink or chase wild women,” he says. “And you’ll life longer?” One of the young men asks. “No,” replies the old man, “You just feel older.”

Watch out for them wild women boy.