May 27
jsorlean , Posted on SUPPORT NETWORK Blog

A Stroke And A Heart Attack And I Still Think I'm Lucky

Heart disease runs in my family. Both my father and father’s father died from heart attacks at the age of 52. My father died when I was 18. I am 61 now. While we were mourning his passing, our family doctor warned my mother to watch for signs that my brother and I may have inherited my family’s genes for heart disease as we entered our middle years.

Around the age of 50 a stress test revealed that I had. Two years later a non-invasive angiogram showed I had significant blockage in my coronary arteries including the widow-maker.

I used to believe that getting heart disease, strokes and other degenerative diseases was a matter of bad luck. Then I heard that these diseases are a product of inherited genetic tendencies and lifestyle (diet, exercise, stress management…). I learned that food choices could either turn on or suppress the expression of these tendencies.

My curiosity about the relationship of food choices to the incidence of disease inspired me to earn a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and eCornell.

Thus began my adventure using a combination of western medicine and following a whole food, plant based diet. Pounds and inches dropped from my body and my blood lipid levels also dropped. As great as my results were, I under-estimated how far I needed to go with my diet. In July of last year, nine years after my non-invasive angiogram, I had a stroke and two months later the widow-maker closed up and I had a heart attack.

As enamored as I am about the importance of healthy eating, there is one thing I am very clear about. If it wasn’t for modern medicine, I wouldn’t be here now. I was in the early stages of a heart attack when I walked into the emergency room. Their ability to detect what was going on and quickly place 3 stents in my closed artery saved my life. The medicine that I take daily is as important to my well-being as the food I eat.

I am now following a much stricter version of the diet I was on. I have dropped 15 lbs since July and my total cholesterol dropped from 180 to 129 and my bad cholesterol dropped from 95 to 68.

Before the cardiac events I had both a Primary Care Physician (PCP) and Cardiologist who used both western medicine and plant-based food to care for their patients. Unfortunately, they were more that an hour away. Since the cardiac events, having local doctors is a necessity when dealing with emergencies. I have an excellent local cardiologist and PCP who do not see eye-to-eye with me on the value of plant-based food. I still consult with my Plant-Based Cardiologist. I also have a Neurologist who guides me through my healing after my stroke.

Immediately after my stroke, I could not speak, write or type. I could not walk by myself, even with a walker. I was a graphic designer with excellent eye-hand coordination. As an educator, I taught courses and gave talks. I was physically active and went on frequent walks and bike rides. I worked with a physical therapist, speech and occupational therapist to regain these abilities. Every week I practice physical therapy exercises, work muscles around my mouth that were effected and practice reading out loud.

There is a great book called “Different Strokes” by Steven Boorstein. He shares his stroke story and the stories of other survivors. As challenging as their strokes are, they all say that the value they got outweighs the cost. When I first heard this, I thought, “No way!” This experience has humbled me. I am more compassionate towards myself and others. I feel more real. Makes me think of a quote from the book “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams.

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
  • anne-marie halloran
    anne-marie halloran,
    This is an erudite explanation of your encounter with two major killers. Yes, I believe much is inherited, but I have never been ill, my breast cancer was already dry in my flesh. My back and my orthopedic structure has been weak after years of sports, any sports. Yet 2 summers ago, together with the family, mostly nieces and nephews at my brother's granddaughter's wedding, I was told by my brother, that there was a lot of Diabetes in us, I turn out to be marginal. My stroke may have been diabetic related. Hope you are fine, I am still recovering. still a bit confused in my brain. But I believe and so all is well.
  • Bobcat
    The call for independence... "Consider The Journey In Blade of Grass... It Take Place Beneath the Surface... And the Road He Travel Upon Call the... Least Resistant!..." © Thanks for sharing...
  • fluffy
    I admire you very much, and wanted to say that. My father had 3 major heart attacks, beginning at age 40 yrs. and was then the victim of a debilitating Stroke at age 69. Although a daughter, I am very much 'like' my father, both in appearance, temperament, even personality......I had a 'silent heart attack' sometime in early 2016. It showed up on my EKG in March, and I did not want to believe it. I insisted that it be done again: same result....So, I must get very serious about lowering Triglycerides, about exercise, and improving what was already a pretty fair diet, although losing 15 lbs. will help me alot....I don't want to live in fear that my father's history will be replicated in my own life, so I must get highly motivated to improve my odds.....I believe that I will read the book by Steven Boorstein. My own father had a terribly difficult life for 11 years following his severe stroke. That is my greatest fear, certainly....Your compassionate attitude is very helpful.
  • smit4221
    YOU ARE BLESSED! you are now a kept by the Grace of God.
  • carolonowens
    yes indeed you are Blessed. God must be guiding you so you could help others, like me. Continue to go forward. We need to enjoy everyday & not take life/things for granted. Prayers & good thoughts to you. Carol
  • janbeard1960
    Lovely post. I hope you continue to heal. Jan
  • connectcare
    Thank you for sharing. I will share my NDE story for the first time publicly twice in June. We survivors have survived for a reason. We can all be ambassadors. Unfortunately, I have dealt with more than my share of doctor inconsistencies. We ALL must be our own best advocates, for no one knows our bodies like we do. Technically, I was told I did not have a stroke, however, I have had to learn word recall, to walk, etc. again. My anoxic brain from my THREE codes has left me a bit deficient in quickly finding correct prefixes of words. Sufflixes are recalled easily!?! Thank you for sharing book titles, too. The beat goes on, Roz
  • Bevrly
    Thanks for sharing. My husband had a stroke in 1990 and it took a lot of rehab to get him back to walking and almost being his old self. I was his advocate and you are right you do need an advocate. After his rehab we took classes to be Stroke Peer Visitors to visit patient and help any way we could. We also joined a stroke support group which I still go to even though my husband passed away 7 years ago. Beverly
  • Tom7
    I am going to read the book, I too had a heart attack and stroke in November 2015. Thank you
  • heartsecrets
    i have done the research to find out what had worked for me....2 mg of copper, 10 mg of biotin, "vitamin O" from website R-garden, which also sells an oximeter to test your oxygen level.....98% is normal....89% is critical. it also show pulse rate. you may also check out the online story, "1957 turkey study". any more questions please send to . God bless.
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