Lets start with where this lifestyle started.
Basically, in terms easiest to understand, the left side of my heart is enlarged and damaged, the top of the heart is beating irregularly and too fast, and the heart can not pump enough blood to run my whole body correctly…..I know it sounds like I should have one foot in the grave, but I am way to stubborn for that.
I have always been a fighter. I have always credited my mother for that. She is the most positive, upbeat, strong woman I know. She has taught me a lot about how attitude effects how you feel. She is a 2 time cancer survivor. All through her chemotherapy she kept a smile on her face, and didn’t miss a step. Sure there were days that she was a little green, but she was always at work setting a positive example for her employees. There were days they would have to just close her office door, because it was easier than watching her look weak, but she was always there fighting and not letting cancer take control of her life. From the time she was diagnosed and began treatment she never said she had cancer, she always considered herself a cancer survivor.
That is the attitude I want to emulate. I could just sit around and be sick. I could just feel bad, be depressed, and wait for this to kill me. It would be too easy to give up. Not me, Not now, Not ever!! I am fighting, I am living, I am going to beat all odds, I am going to help others fight!
On January 1st 2012, I went to the emergency room and the Electrocardiogram showed that I was in A-fib and I was admitted into the ICU, the next day my Echocardiogram revealed an Ejection Fraction of 20%. Common guidelines generally consider an EF below 20% to be terminal and below 18% to be grounds for being put on the transplant list. Luckily I have never been anything close to common, nor do I ever follow normal guidelines. What would be the fun in that, right? Who wants to be common? I want to be the extraordinary, the one that the doctors talk about, the one that blew all the guidelines out of the water.
After 6 days, I was released to go home to a very scared hubby, and dog that was very happy to see me. After about a half hour of face kisses, big hugs and some tears, the adventure began! I now had 7 prescription medications to take daily. Coreg 25mg twice a day, Aldactone 25mg daily, Lasix 80mg twice a day, Benazepril 20mg daily, Aspirin 81mg, Pradaxa 150mg twice a day and Nitroglycerin in case of chest pain or emergency. My counter looks looked like I was either 90 years old or just robbed a pharmacy. Taking the medications was going to be the easy part of this journey, the hard part was yet to come, changing how I lived my entire life.
The things I was told to do by my cardiology team (yes I have a whole team) were clear. Don’t over exert your heart, but do get a little movement each day to try and build some strength. No Caffeine at all, this means no caffeinated soda, tea, coffee, and even no chocolate. Yes you heard it, NO CHOCOLATE. Apparently this lovely creamy sugary friend that most us women love so much has a natural amount of caffeine in it and it was now off limits. NO alcohol, it is a Vasodilator so it makes your heart race, and mine already does that on it’s own. NO smoking, it also speeds up the heart rate. Eat healthy and slim down, the smaller you are the harder your heart has to work to run your body and organs. Most importantly, and the item that was stressed the most to me every day of my stay in that hospital bed….NO SALT!!
The normal dietary guidelines for sodium in a 2000 calorie diet is approx. 2300mg per day. A basic low sodium diet is suggested to be 1500 – 2000mg sodium per day. Then there is the regulation for food labels. You may ask What is low sodium on a food label? Well this a start, but my team put me on a “Very Low Sodium” diet. The basic thing my team told me was, to read labels, and avoid processed food. Do not buy or eat anything with over 120mg sodium per serving. Items with between 60-120mg per serving limit to 4-6 servings per day. Items below 60mg per serving go ahead and eat. Fill your meals with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat. Avoid canned and packaged foods, processed meats and cheeses, and always read labels. Always remember if it tastes salty it probably is.
How in the world was I going to be able to have the strength to quit, smoking, drinking, and eating processed foods and salt, ALL at the same time. People always say how hard it is to cut out one thing, is it possible to do it all? I am sure going to give my best fighting try!
It is now 67 days since I got home from that hospital stay, but for all intensive purposes the changes started on January 1st when they put me in ICU, and I have not had a drink, smoke, caffeine or over 1000mg of sodium or even over 1200 calories in a single day. It is getting easier every day. I have lost 27 pounds since I got home and started this life. Tomorrow I will let you in on how I started the changes, and we will start working on the ways to love them and keep the lifestyle going.
My heart is still very damaged, I still have very little energy, I have weekly trips to my cardiologist, I have procedures scheduled to try and fix some of the problems……. but I am always fighting! As long as there is a fight to be had…I will be on the front lines of my battleground for survival!