Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Healthy back story

Some have remarked on how courageous I am to have picked up and moved half-way across the world. It does take some courage but the alternative stagnation, is a fate worse than death. And memento mori did have a critical part to play. Despite dragging my self to the gym 3 days a week, sitting all day at the computer, I felt the life force ebbing away. Aches and cramps, loss of flexibility, slight dizziness, and losing my balance, compounded by symptoms of BPH (enlarged prostate) were undeniable signs of aging.

An EMI test showed severe blockage of the coronary arteries, an alarming surprise since I have adhered assiduously to a healthy lifestyle, being vegetarian for over 30 years, and vegan the last five (clarification here: I coined the term domestic vegan to describe being vegan at home, but relaxing restrictions when traveling or on the few occasions I ate out). My cholesterol readings were not excessively high but I had been having bouts of tightening of the chest, palpitations, shortness of breath, and low energy. The cardiologist prescribed statins. Not favoring drugs of any kind, I declined, determined to find alternative means of alleviating the symptoms, if not reversing the condition. I reacquainted myself with the work of Dr. Dean Ornish whose book “Reversing and Preventing Heart Disease,” I used to promote after I met one of his recovering patients. I also discovered Drs. Esselstyn, Fuhrman and McDonald. Ornish's most famous patient is perhaps Bill Clinton, interviewed in a CNN documentary by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Dr. Esselstyn is also featured in the documentary Forks Over Knives, along with researcher Dr Colin Campbell whose book The China Study provides statistical support.

Having adhered strictly to the no-added oil regime, within two years I was symptom-free and, as an added benefit, my blood pressure which had been pre-hypertensive fell to normal levels. Another side-effect of the no-added fat diet is severe weight loss. My weight dropped from 142 to 120, the same I weighed when I was 18. To stem any further weight loss I added back avocados and nuts to my diet with no adverse effects, concluding that perhaps only those with severe heart disease need adhere strictly to the no-added fat rule. I add minimal amounts of coconut or olive oil for flavor at the end of making certain dishes, being careful not to heat them as that changes their molecular structure, turning them into inflammatories. I have regained my energy and vigor and realized that instead of an early death alone in my apartment in DC, I had been given a new lease on life. What to do with it?

My hermeneutic response (subject of another piece) was that I had further work to do and though i'm probably good for another 20 years, I should waste no time winding down but get up and go. The challenge was how to stretch my limited financial resources to cover this extended life. The answer was to move someplace with a lower cost of living.