Sep 19, 2013

Time for quiet reflection

Cooler heads must prevail.  Else chaos ensues.

For years now I have been doing private research into methods of reversing Coronary Artery Disease.  Many good things have come from this, including a good sense of who has been really making progress on this front.  There are a few doctors who are really focused on this problem and who really seem to get the source of the problem.  While I would suggest that many questions remain to be answered, many have been answered and provide guidance for how to get started.

During this time I have been moving ever closer to a plant based nutrition diet.  This seems to be a common they all agree with although the reasons vary.

Before my heart attacks, I was a proponent of the Atkins diet.  This did a wonderful job of resolving issues related to diabetes and did so without much thought.  I think that is what Dr. Atkins meant to do, making it easy to follow.

Atkin's pinnacle work was "The New Diet Revolution" and is the ancestor of all things low-carb.  There were many who preceded him, but his works introduced low carb options to popular culture and to that end made their contribution.

The Atkin's diet allows you to eat all of the meat based products you feel appropriate.  Calorie counting for meat based products is not part of the regimen and and all carbohydrates require monitoring and thus are more problematic.  The participants tend to naturally gravitate toward meat based products for personal convenience reasons trying to avoid the hassle of counting measures/weights/calories obtained from carbohydrates.

It has a spectacular affect on blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.  My doctor declared me "cured" of diabetes after seeing my test results.  It was truly marvelous.  While I used to recommend this to newly diagnosed diabetics, there are better solutions and some parts of this diet are not yet well understood.  As my disease progressed, and as I became lazy with respect to monitoring, this diet led to my first heart attack (my opinion) by allowing me me to consume high fat levels while I allowed myself (not part of the Atkins diet) more carbohydrates than recommended.

For those who are really paying attention, my personal opinion is that high carbs + high fats is deadly.  But there are other deadly variations that also need to be considered.

After my first heart attack, it became very clear that I needed to make some adjustments.  It was time to rethink my strategies from the ground up.  Failure was clear and my clogged up arteries were proof.

I found a few doctors who were claiming to be able to reverse Coronary Artery Disease.  This was phenomenal given the prevailing attitude that this was non reversible a decade ago.  I had to know more.

 The doctors I found were Dean Ornish, Caldwell Esselstien, John McDougal, and Joel Fuhrman.  I also found T. Collin Campbell, a researcher involved in  nutrition and dietary studies.

All of these men advocate a return to eating whole unprocessed foods and abstinence from meat and dairy products.  While their programs vary, the emphasis is to return to the nutrition provided by whole plant based foods and give your body what it needs to heal itself.  They all like to see a healthy inclusion of the darker green leafy vegetables.

Even though I found these people to guide my path to healing after my first heart attack, I did not fully implement what they advised.  After the second heart attack I began implementing it more completely.

I cut down significantly on meat and dairy products immediately.  Then, over time I found more ways to eliminate even more of them.  But I could not find good ways to increase my consumption of whole plant based foods.  I tried salads, prepared interesting vegetables on their own, tried variations on rice and beans, all with some success.  But getting enough leafy greens is tough unless you plan to graze on them all day.

Then I found out about "green smoothies".  Green smoothies are blended drinks made from vegetable and fruit bases.  While this seemed somewhat faddish, it had a virtue in that by blending the greens into a drink you convert a fairly large amount of greens into a more condensed drink.

This makes getting your essential veggies really easy.  I had to give this a reasonable try and effort.  I invested in a top grade blender (Vita Mix) and starting learning my way through the basics of green smoothie creation.  I have been doing this for about two weeks now and I am simply amazed at how much better I am feeling.  It made clear to me that I have been malnourished for most of my life, and how I have been feeling for the last few years was not necessary.  I could have been feeling far far better and enjoying my life more.

Now a path forward is starting to emerge.  By aliasing my diet toward low calorie nutrient rich plants I can start the process of giving my body what it needs to heal and let it start doing its job.

More to come soon about the doctors I found and progress as I can report it.


Sep 15, 2013

It all starts here and now. I am not giving up.

I was diagnosed with type two diabetes when I was 39.  I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol (both for many years) and was peeing frequently all night long.  A full work day required a nap in my car shortly after lunch and I had no energy except my reserves.

A good friend called me into her home one morning after I picked my son up from an early morning education class and presented me with her blood testing kit.  I had not eaten yet so this would be a fasting blood test (as she intended).  During a time when 120 mcg/dl was considered normal and 160 mcg/dl was considered high, I was ~350 mcg/dl.  Clearly out of bounds and in need of medical attention. My doctor confirmed this diagnosis shortly thereafter.

I remember an acute sense of just how unfair this was.  Why me?  I had no family history to support it and really did not understand how I was selected to be one of those who received this shortened life notice.

I went through several major life changes after this, including major dietary changes, attempts to educate my self about this condition and unfortunately a divorce after nearly 20 years of marriage.

At the same time I was achieving phenomenal success in my career.  A lifetime's work was beginning to bear fruit and my income was climbing remarkably.

I got things under control (I thought) and put my life back together.  I had remarried to a wonderful woman, the kids were all mid launch and things were looking better.  I made the compromises I had to with respect to diet, and saw a doctor from time to time to re align my prescriptions.  While my control was not awesome, it seemed to be adequate and I had other more pressing career issues to pay attention to so let things just idle for a number of years knowing that at some point I would have to come back to my health issues as they grew worse.

Fast forward to the summer of my 48th year.  I was managing one of the largest and most significant projects of my life.  It was a fast build of a website for an NFL franchise and it required teams of players from around the world to complete.  It was an aggressive high stress project and right inline with the type of work I like to take on.  I had the right teams in place, the right leaders overseeing the project and was managing an overly tight time budget to meet my customers expectations.  Days started around 4:30 every morning and concluded in the late evenings after my last meetings at 10 or 11 pm.

One evening I could not get comfortable.  I felt very anxious and kept pacing around.  I didn't have the time for this problem, there were many things to get done that day.  After an hour or so of pacing around, stretching, trying to find a way past this I realized that I was feeling some symptoms of a heart attack.  This had happened before and had been attributed to indigestion, but this time it would not go away and kept getting worse.  I asked my wife to drive me to the emergency room to get checked out.  After several painful hours in the emergency room, a litany of tests, and repeated smaller heart attacks throughout the evening, the doctors were able to confirm I had a heart attack.

This led to about a week and a half in the hospital, a transfer to another facility, and eventually an angiogram with stent placement to open an artery that had become blocked.  I was too young for this and really felt that this was a fluke.  In spite of my feelings this was very serious and meant a dramatic increase in prescriptions along with more life changes.  From this point on, my life took a serious dive.  I never returned to full productivity and found I had to make dramatic adjustments to my lifestyle to accommodate more down time and reducing stress in my life.

I continued to take on large projects in my career, but found them more difficult to manage given the time I had to do so.  I gave cursory attention to my health and was making progressive changes dictated by the few doctor's I could find who claimed to be able to reverse heart disease.  Finding the data I needed was truly not easy to do.  There are competing voices on this front and they really don't align with what your doctors know and trust.

Almost one and one half years after this, I woke one morning to similar symptoms to those I had the evening of my heart attack.  At the time one of my two adult daughters and one of my two adult sons were living at home.  My wife had just left for work (she leaves shortly after 5:00 am) and I simply could not get comfortable.  I was short of breath, my chest felt like it was in a vice, and I had pain shooting down my left arm.  I tried to calm down, walk around a bit and just get it under control but none of my efforts were working.  I was scared, and called 911.  The paramedics that showed up gave me a very brief evaluation and immediately transported me to the hospital.  My poor over traumatized daughter called her mother and let her know what was going on.  But my wife was in a shared vanpool and there was no way for her to be back for a number of hours.

The paramedics got me to the hospital and I was really not doing well.  I felt worse than ever and was having repeated waves of contraction in my chest that really said something was wrong.  The blockage both the the first time, and now this time, was in an area that complicated diagnoses as my EKG always looked normal.  The doctors and hospital personnel simply could not see the problem on their most useful diagnostic tool and were struggling to figure out what the problem was.

Within a few minutes of arriving at the hospital I "coded" leading to complete heart failure.  My heart completely stopped beating and I was at that point clinically dead.  Hospital personal jumped into action and started administering emergency resuscitation.  When that did not work they brought in the defibrillator.  It took two minutes, which I have absolutely no memory of, but they managed to get my heart beating again and shortly after that I regained consciousness.   My only memory is waking up from what seemed like passing out, asking what happened, and being told by the guy who administered the defibrillator "I just shocked you".  It didn't make sense to me and I assumed that I just didn't hear him properly.  It took at least another ten minutes for me to figure out what had just happened. 

After another ~2 weeks in the hospital I got to go home.  All I could think about was the wasted 2 weeks.  My family was very scared and for the first time in my life I felt like I had no future and no real sense of when the end would come.  I was afraid to go to sleep at night.  My wife would wake frequently worried if I was still alive.  My children were calling me more than usual and running me through the mill with things they had come up with that might help.  My father told me I was supposed to outlive him, not the other way around.

It has been just over two years now since that last heart attack.  I am 53 this year and trying to figure out how I am going to get everything done, ready, and in order for the next one.  Statistically I am in the wrong category and caregivers provide what is needed much more so than what could improve my life.  I can see it in their eyes, they know I don't have much of a chance statistically of getting very far.

I have felt "broken" now for a number of years.  I am physically impaired and no longer have the stamina I once had.  I can't reduce my workload without impairing my family financially.  My wife is not prepared to live by herself and maintain our standard of living.

But I am not done.  This isn't over.  There are things I can do to improve my condition and hopefully extend my longevity.  I am just not done.

Join me.  Maybe you have been through something similar, perhaps someone else in your life that you care about has.  Either way, I have learned things during this process that can help you, and I am sure you have learned things that can help me.  Progress has been made, and some visionaries have provided a path to heeling.  It can happen, and I really don't have another acceptable choice.

It starts now.  I have to do this and I have to succeed.  Lets get this going.