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)

Chilli Quorn Carne Another Healthy Heart Meal

Chilli Con Carne Quorn style

After my previous attempt at “healthy” chilli –Turkey mince chilli– I was a bit skeptical about trying another variation on the healthy alternative theme.

Despite my best efforts the turkey chilli, even with all the extra spices added, still tasted like turkey chilli. It was edible sure, but it was not a screaming success.

I had previously thought about using Quorn. Quorn for the uninitiated is a meat substitute manufactured in the United Kingdom. It is available in 11 countries, the USA being one of them.

Now here’s the important bit.

It’s good.

My first introduction to the product was when my daughter Meg was in high school and in a cookery class. Her teacher had insisted that her class make a pizza with this ham substitute called Quorn.

I did not like it. The texture was funny and even though it did taste faintly of ham the texture of it didn’t match the taste. Fortunately they’ve improved on their imitation meat textures. Improved enough for me to give it a second chance.

Since my heart attack and the resultant surgery I’ve had to completely restructure my diet as well as my lifestyle. I’ve been trying to share each new recipe as I try them.

For the record we’ve tried the winter vegetable lasagna:

Scrumptious.

And the turkey Chilli Con Carne:

Chilli Con Carne with turkey mince

In my blog post For ‘Every Beat of My Heart’ Thanks I mentioned Quorn but had decided that it was too expensive. The packet of mince I’d seen in the store was priced at £1.85 for 300 grams. I had decided that I would need at least 2 packets to make chilli con carne.

That would have made it pretty expensive so I gave it a miss. Actually the reverse was true. It was extremely cost effective. Cost effective because you only need one 300g packet to make chilli.

The recipe is simple and just like making regular chilli –the meaty type– and it tastes delicious. If you’re interested, I’ll pass the recipe on before the end of the post.

But first I’d like to tell you what Quorn is made of. According to Wikipedia Quorn is made of fungi:

Quorn is made from the soil mould Fusarium venenatum strain PTA-2684 (previously misidentified as the parasitic mold Fusarium graminearum [13]). The fungus is grown in continually oxygenated water in large, otherwise sterile fermentation tanks. During the growth phase, glucose is added as a food for the fungus, as are various vitamins and minerals (to improve the food value of the resulting product). The resulting mycoprotein is then extracted and heat-treated to remove excess levels of RNA. Previous attempts to produce such fermented protein foodstuffs were thwarted by excessive levels of DNA or RNA; without the heat treatment, purine, found in nucleic acids, is metabolised by humans, producing uric acid, which can lead to gout.[14]

The product is dried and mixed with chicken egg albumen, which acts as a binder. It is then textured, giving it some of the grained character of meat, and pressed either into a mince (resembling ground beef), forms resembling breasts, meatballs, turkey roasts, or into chunks (resembling diced chicken breast). In these forms, Quorn has a varying colour and a mild flavour resembling the imitated meat product, and is suitable for use as a replacement for meat in many dishes, such as stews and casseroles.[citation needed] The final Quorn product is high in protein and dietary fibre and is low in saturated fat and salt. It contains less dietary iron than do most meats.

The different tastes and forms of Quorn are results of industrial processing of the raw fungus.

Okay, boring science class over. I just felt that you ought to know what this tasty stuff is made of. It doesn’t bother me, because it tastes brilliant and is better for my heart than my lifetime favorite of meat.

  • 300g pack of Quorn Mince
  • 1 onion diced
  • 3 large flat mushrooms diced
  • 2 tsp of chilli powder
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 400g can of kidney beans
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • garlic powder approximately 1/4 tsp
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • salt
  • lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp unrefined sugar
  • 1 tsp of mixed herbs

Cook the above ingredients for approximately 15 minutes while you boil up a cup of rice –you can use wild rice– and grate a bit of light mature cheese for a topping.

This will feed four or if you are a family of two it will stretch for two meals.

This recipe is actually cheaper than making it with traditional beef mince (hamburger).

If you can get Quorn where you live, give it a try and let me know what you think of it!

Matters of my Heart…

English: A thoracic surgeon performs a mitral ...
English: A thoracic surgeon performs a mitral valve replacement at the Fitzsimons Army Medical Center. Slovenščina: Kirurgi med operacijo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s odd. I’ve been sitting here wondering about the bypass surgery and how they went about it. Oh I know what goes on I just don’t know the specifics. *And before you say anything, yes this will be the last time I write about the adventures of my heart…maybe*

After the surgery and before I was allowed to go home, we had a briefing from a lovely lady who was a cardiac specialist. She motioned for  me and my daughter to sit down and then after setting herself down  looked at us and smiled.

“Are you ready for your new life!”

She then went on to say that after the first few weeks, my diet did not have to change one iota. When I questioned this she smiled and said, “You are in recovery mode right now. You can eat whatever you want  and as much as you want. After that the ‘new rules’ will come into being, but we’ll talk about that a little closer to the time. Welcome to your life changing event.”

That  whole somewhat surreal conversation got me thinking then. All sorts of random thoughts swirling around in the  nooks and crannies of my doped up mind. The lady did ask us if we had any questions. I didn’t bother. I was high as a kite with all the ‘feel-good’ stuff they had me on and I knew  that I’d never remember any answers to anything I might ask.

It was only later that, in between pain medication doses, that I started wondering about the whole process and what it ultimately might mean. I know, for instance, that at one point in the procedure they stopped my heart and used a machine to breathe and pump blood for me while they worked on my heart.

Does that mean that, technically at least. I was dead? If I was ‘dead’ would I now be able to ‘see’ dead people? Or go on the road telling fortunes  like some sort of fairground gypsy?

Leaving the fanciful questions behind for a minute, how about when they ‘pulled’ my ribs apart? Did they use some sort of fancy gleaming chrome bolt cutter thing that would look more comfortable in a Slasher movie or something else. Staying with the ribs for a moment longer, how did they ‘wire’ them back up? Did they use some sort of super-glue, or did they use some sort of titanium wire?

When I look at my body I see a mass of stitches and swelling and different shades of bruises. I look like the survivor of a plane wreck or like a chap who went two seconds with Mike Tyson when he was on form.

Mike Tyson: Main Event
Mike Tyson: Main Event (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The whole time I was in hospital the staff kept telling me how great I looked and how wonderful my colour was. If that was true, why do I now look like a 95 year old anemic albino who is tottering slowly towards the gate to the afterlife. Were they exaggerating wildly so that I would check out early and let another customer in?

I can see them now waving at the car I was being driven away in, their other hand over their mouth and giggling uncontrollably. “Can you believe he fell for that!”

Apart from the more immediate events (surgery, re-hab, et al) I also wonder about the long term affects. For example, I had a friend who had his gall bladder removed. No real dramas here, but, ten years later after complaining of an internal pain that the doctors could not pinpoint at all. They opened my friend up for some explorative surgery. They found a set of forceps and a few sponges in his cavity. Not surprisingly,  the pains stopped soon after.

I once met a chap who swore that his grandfather had something similar happen to him. Back in the days when surgery was more of a ‘by-the-seat-of-your-pants practise than today, his grandpa had his appendix removed.

Now grandpa was a big fellow. Tall and big-boned he had worked for years as a circus strong man. His appendix was really causing him some pain, so surgeons quickly got him under knife and had the troublesome organ removed.  Everything was fine at first. Then Gramps began to get hot flashes, hear voices and feel little tremors in the area of his operation.

Doctors admitted that they were puzzled about what was causing these mysterious symptoms. Explorative surgery was quickly set up for the next day. The old circus strong man came in and got ‘prepped’ for surgery.

Surgeons had not even finished their first incision when a pair off hands shot out of the freshly made hole and started pulling the edges apart. The anesthesiologist and two nurses screamed and passed out. The surgeon watched in disbelief when a small medical technician came clambering out of grandpa.

It turns out the the technician had fallen in while over stretching him self to retrieve a clamp. Before he could raise anyone’s attention the surgeon had sewn the circus strongman back up. The hot flashes were from the small tech’s lighter. The sounds of voices had been him screaming for help and then talking to himself. The tremors were from the same technician who kept attempting to climb his way out.

Physically the man’s grandfather recovered well from the surgery. Mentally he did not make out so well. As he got older, the old man had developed the odd habit of screaming and cursing at his stomach if he got a touch of indigestion or heart burn.

So I’ll wait to see what, if anything, was left in my body after my operation. I haven’t got quite the girth of grandpa so I think that small medical staff don’t stand much chance of being trapped in me.  Although I do at times feel like I have a tray or something in my chest after the operation.  So I might have a medical tool tray in there.

Or nothing at all. Medicine has moved on after all.

From a B grade Slasher Film
From a B grade Slasher Film (Photo credit: n8k99)