Thad and I have celebrated 45 Valentine Days and that included a lot of chocolate for me and peanut butter/nuts/chocolate for him.   But since he now sports two stents in his heart and I have had a coronary artery bypass I think it’s safe to say that all those gooey, yummy decadent foods have helped to clog our arteries.

So, this year, how will we show our love?  I’m thinking diamonds for me and a watch he’s been eyeing for him.  But as I thought about what Valentine’s Day means, I realized I wanted to give him something more.

I want to give him more time with each other.  I want to give him a healthier “us” both emotionally and physically.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love a new diamond ring as mine has lost some stones but quality of time spent with him makes a new diamond ring lose its luster.

So I am recommitting myself – actually us (he doesn’t know it yet – but he will when he reads it) to a healthier lifestyle to help reduce the risk factors of heart disease.  Now, you might say, “Loretta, I know what the risk factors are and I don’t have any history of heart disease in my family”.

Read on, my friend.

In my case, my paternal and maternal grandfathers as well as my father all died of heart disease.  However, I was surprised to learn from Dr. Mehmet Oz that while nearly half of all adults have some sort of cardiovascular disease, only 1/3 have a genetic predisposition.  There goes my excuse for heart disease!

So how did I end up with a double bypass at 55?

Bad habits.

My bad habits started early.  While I grew up in Italy and ate mostly fresh fruits, vegetables and a balance of meat, with only a sprinkling of sweets; returning to the US in my early teens introduced me to the American candy bar.  Still mourning the death of my dad, and adjusting to the return to American soil, two new schools, finding new friends and becoming a part of the 70’s culture and lifestyle (think culture shock); I dove in head and mouth first, stuffing down and suppressing my anxiety with 3 Musketeers and Hershey chocolate kisses.   Add the quick accessibility of fast food chains and you have the recipe for a clogged artery or two.  Now put some icing on that recipe with lack of consistent exercise (hey, by 1980 I was busy raising a daughter, running my own business, and being a caregiver for my mom, and my husband).  Who had the time?

By 62 I was borderline diabetic with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  The doctors were threatening to put me on expensive medications for The.  Rest.  Of.  My. Life.

It was my wake up call.

As February is Heart Health Month, here are some facts I learned from Dr Oz.

  • Genetics only accounts for 1/3 of how you age after 50. This is worth repeating.
  • Nearly ½ of all adults have some sort of cardiovascular disease.
  • Today there is an increase in heart attack deaths and this is primarily driven by high cholesterol.
  • 8 out of 10 people can change their risk factors for heart disease by changing their lifestyle.
  • 2/3 of how long we survive is lifestyle.
  • 1/5 of all kids are overweight.

So what Dr Oz is really saying is that I can control my future!  And so can you!

How are we to do this?

Turns out, while exercise is important; food is even more so.  Dr Oz says that “Exercise is critical for longevity but food reduces the risk factors of heart disease”.

He also stated that “your grocery store is your pharmacy”.

Basically, you are going to shop the perimeter of your grocery store by

  • Eating whole grains such as oatmeal because they suck cholesterol and fats out of your body.
  • Eat Salmon & Oily fish which helps your brain, blood vessels and nerves maintain flexibility.
  • Choose the colors of the rainbow in vegetables and fruits as they help absorb vitamin C.
  • And while fats in excess are not good for those with a history or predisposition of heart disease; nuts and olive oil, in moderation, are an excellent source of fat.

So this Valentine’s Day, I am giving Thad the gift of health –mine health and his.  Think of the money I’m saving him!   We are going out to dine with some friends and yes, I will have a glass of wine with a heart healthy meal but I will refrain from the large gooey dessert (oy!) which Thad and I usually die for (quite literally).

Instead I will have one chocolate covered strawberry, give him a big smooch and tell him he’s stuck with me for another 45 years.  Of course, when he reads this he may be thinking about that old joke about feelings of ambivalence while watching your mother in law go over a cliff in your new Mercedes.

p.s. The mother in law joke is just that, folks.  I was blessed with an awesome second mother when I married Thad.  I learned and respected her greatly.

So,what are you doing this Valentine’s Day?  How do you show your love to that special someone?  Have you ever had to give up something you loved for someone you loved?

 

Thank you for reading this post.  If you have found it encouraging and helpful please consider liking, commenting or sharing this post.

I have additional insights I’d love to share with you found in the pages of my new book: Surviving Medical Mayhem – Laughing When It Hurts.  To order a copy or learn more go to my website at www.SurvivingMedicalMayhem.com

Blessing of Health & Wellness.

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