Lee Stroy – Check. Change. Control. Cholesterol.
Nearly 1 in 3 Americans have high LDL cholesterol “the bad cholesterol,” which is one of the major controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Since high cholesterol typically has no symptoms, it’s important to get levels regularly checked. Here, Lee Stroy, father of five, shares his experience managing high cholesterol and other risk factors to raise awareness of the importance of knowing your numbers.
Before I suffered from my stroke, I considered myself to be a healthy person. My diet consisted of meat, primarily chicken, potatoes and occasional vegetables. My biggest challenges to eating a healthy diet were fried foods and junk foods. I also smoked and was slightly overweight for my 6 foot 4 stature. My gauge of being “healthy” was my ability to wake-up in the morning, get to work, take care of my family and live another day to do it again. That is until I couldn’t.
In December 2014, I woke up discombobulated and scared after suffering from a stroke at just 38-years old. Shortly after being taken by ambulance to the hospital, I learned that I not only suffered a stroke, but also had undiagnosed hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol. It surprised me to learn that there are often no visible symptoms for high cholesterol until a heart or stroke event. Cholesterol cannot be checked as easily at home in the same way blood pressure or blood sugar can through a machine or a small prick of the finger, cholesterol levels are best tested through a blood test by a doctor and, if caught early, can be managed with lifestyle changes or prescribed medication. Unfortunately, I was not diligent about my annual check-ups, so my health setbacks provided me with a huge wake up call. I decided I needed to take control of my health and this marked the beginning of a major lifestyle transformation.
The first change was quitting smoking. I took my last smoke the night before suffering from my stroke and never looked back. Next, I began incorporating exercise into my daily routine. I started out with simple exercises from occupational therapy to try and rebuild motor skills affected by the stroke and worked my way up to walking several miles a day. These walks not only became a way for me to stay active, but also gave me time to decompress from the numerous stresses that came along from the aftermath of my stroke. I also gradually made changes to my diet, from being a meat-eater to vegetarian, and now a vegan. I am also better about regular doctor’s visits to keep tabs on my progress.
While it was no easy feat to make such drastic lifestyle changes, they are now second nature - my new normal. Don’t put off or be afraid to go to the doctor. You could catch something early and be able to make changes. For anyone overcoming a health challenge, be consistent in your journey and flexible in your thoughts. Most importantly, be kind to yourself.
Visit American Heart Association’s Check. Change. Control. Cholesterol.TM Initiative, nationally supported by Amgen, for more resources.