53 years old, healthy, good diet, lots of exercise and bam, and I am diagnosed with heart disease. The cardiologist asked me how it got so bad while shaking his head. Am I a dead man walking? Seven stents later to clear out the widow maker artery, a kidney, and both legs and I am good as new, or am I?
What does it mean to be diagnosed with heart disease? It doesn’t have to be a death sentence, does it? How much do you think about it? What are your limitations? How has your lifestyle changed? All very good questions and here are my thoughts, along with answers to these questions and more.
The word afflicted came up in a recent conversation. I used it. I said that a year after I received a stent to open the left anterior descending artery (the widow maker), which by the way was 95% blocked, I don’t feel afflicted. Am I though? Probably, but I choose not to look at it that way. I look forward to each day and the next chapter in my life with optimism and happiness. It is a choice you know.
Sure, I am lucky. I was young enough and fit enough to resume most of my usual activities, mainly golf. I walk a lot, bike ride and things like that. My days in the weight room are over basically due to time and choice. I am not really sure that lifting weights is good or bad for me and my arteries, and I plan to get back to that in some form or fashion. I also plan on adding swimming to the activity plan (the pool is about 8 miles away). I guess the thing is that you have to start somewhere. Start walking and tracking your steps. Set goals. Increase your distance. Talk to your physician and find out what you can and can’t do (should or shouldn’t do), but don’t let it stop you from living. We can all get stronger and healthier with a little work (and some fun).
So, how much do I think about my issue? Everyday. It becomes the new normal, the new lifestyle. Not necessarily in a bad way. Sure, I have to remember to take a couple of pills a couple of times a day, and I have to be cognizant of what I eat and drink, even more so than before, but that’s not a big deal. I tell myself not to stress over work or get too worked up. It really is all about coming to the understanding that you are going to live and enjoy life. I know one thing for a fact, which is that none of us get out of here alive. The key to me is having a good quality of life now in my 50’s and do the things that will allow me the same luxury in my 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and who knows, maybe even my 90’s. Create a system, work it, and let the other stuff take care of itself.
Talk to your physician, figure out what you are both comfortable with doing from a physical standpoint. I approached it that I am going to remain as active as possible (within reason). Heck, I’m not 20 anymore, heart disease or not. But that is what I enjoy. It is more a frame of mind than anything else. Heart disease is not a death sentence. Today’s medical advancements are unbelievable and are only getting better. If your heart is strong, as I was told mine is, then why not work it? Mind over matter, if you don’t mind, then it doesn’t matter.