Posts Tagged ‘Diet’

Bide your time!

January 27, 2009

Having a Congenital Heart Defect affects your entire life. You would be surprised at the number of normal, ordinary things that have to be done differently because of it.

Next Monday, I have to call the pacemaker lab for a telephone check. The technology has gotten better; I used to have to put two bracelets on my wrists, connect wires to the bracelets, and then lay the telephone handset in a special cradle that communicated with the lab. Now all I have to do is connect a small box to the telephone line and place a handheld monitor over the pacemaker. The box places the call automatically, and let’s me know if it is not getting a good signal from the pacer.

You have to watch your diet all the time. You can eat anything you want on the Congestive Heart Failure diet – as long as you don’t exceed 2000 milligrams of sodium and 2000 milliliters of liquid per day. 2000…? Well, perhaps I can’t eat anything I want! Most processed meats are out, and most seafood. Bummer!

Gotta watch the Vitamin K intake when you’re on Anticoagulation therapy, too. So ease up on the leafy green veggies.

“Simple” medical procedures suddenly aren’t so simple any more. My dentist didn’t pull my wisdom teeth, but rather sent me over to an Oral Surgeon… just in case. The Oral Surgeon didn’t pull my teeth in his office, like he normally would have. The procedure took place in an operating room at the hospital … just in case.

And playing on my mind today is my hernia. It’s acting up… and has been acting up a lot lately. It used to be pretty sedate, but it is looking more and more as if I’ll have to have it repaired, and soon.

Hernias are easy to fix, you’re thinking, and you are right. But I have low blood oxygen. I’m not going to do anything without talking it over with my Cardiologist first. I am NOT Standard Hernia Repair #195,034, I’m rather unusual.

So what do you do when you have to constantly make your life fit around a bum heart? Well, there’s the simple way – just give up. Sorry, but that is not an option here.

If I give up, my heart defect wins. And I don’t like to lose.

So what do you do? You follow the rules. You reign yourself in. You eventually learn to change the rules and turn your disadvantage into an asset. I can’t tell you how – everyone has to find their own path – but where there is a will, there’s a way!

And you wait – wait for all this medical technology that’s being developed, better medicines, better operations, because some of that will peel your limitations away. And one day we’ll beat Heart Defects, once and for all.

Until then, “I do what I do to defeat the evil inside of me.”

A low salt treat!

January 22, 2009

“Hey, you want some popcorn?”

If you’re me, you almost say yes… and then you remember that most commercial popcorn recipes are full of sodium. Gosh darn it, this Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) diet makes me angry at times. Whenever I went to the movies, I would almost always buy the largest tub of popcorn they had! And I would ask the person behind the counter for an extra spurt or two (or three!) from the butter machine! Well, that’s not happening any more.

I miss my popcorn.

But then a friend passed this recipe along to me. It is simple, takes hardly any time, and best of al, has almost no sodium! So if you have to watch the sodium content like I do (or just want a fairly healthy treat) try this popcorn recipe:

Buy a jar or bag of plain popcorn. A bag of a store brand of popcorn will usually cost about $1.00; there shouldn’t be any sodium in it but double check the nutritional statement on the bag to make sure.

Pour 3/4 of a cup of popcorn into a mixing container. A small bowl will do just fine. Fill a spoon with cooking oil… and then pour the oil out. You want just enough to wet the spoon. Use the oil coated spoon to stir your popcorn until it is coated with oil.

Pour the popcorn into a paper bag and fold the open end closed. Shake it good, then place it in the microwave oven. Cook it for three to four minutes. You’ll be estimating the first few times you cook popcorn, but you want to cook it until there is at least a second between pops.  Take the bag out and pour your popcorn into a large mixing bowl.

If you want to you can add some melted unsalted butter; I usually add some Lemon and Pepper Seasoning. The good L&P Seasoning is cut very fine, you will sneeze after shaking it out of the dispenser!

You’ve got a good movie on the TV, right? If so, sit back and enjoy your popcorn!

When the box says “Heart Healthy”, they don’t mean YOUR heart

October 21, 2008

“Blam-O Cereals are fortified with nutrients!”

“Every box of Blam-O Cereal is fired out of a cannon, to give you that extra POP in the morning!”

“Blam-O Cereals have been certified Heart Healthy!”

That’s one of the things that irritates me when I shop… the numerous labels that say their products are “heart healthy”. Because they aren’t.

They aren’t Heart Healthy for me. For someone who has suffered a heart attack or is trying to get his cholesterol down, they very well might be magic in a box. But not for me.

It’s a common problem for CHDer’s: A lot of times, the phrase “heart problems” bring to mind acquired heart problems. The problems you get naturally from age, or by “misbehaving”. That thought conficts with reality, as a lot of CHD patients are of below average height and weight, especially when they are young. I’ve actually been told “But you don’t look overweight!” The speaker should be glad that I was 14 at the time and was too shy and reserved to challenge them. If that happened today, they’d get an earful. Not only are they insulting me, they’re judging all of my friends who happen to not meet society’s artificial norms.

I’m sorry to shatter your assumptions, but I did not overeat, undereat, smoke, drink, or do anything else “wrong.” In fact, a CHDer’s heart usually makes them “be a good kid”. We look before we leap, think before we act, and because of dietary or physical restrictions, you’d probably think we’re a bit boring. Also, our minds work better than yours does. Can you keep track of ten (or twelve, or fifteen) different medications?

Didn’t think so.

Oh, by the way, it is not our mother’s fault that we have a Heart Defect. No one know why or how a heart defect occurs, but it happens early. By the time a woman looks her man in the eye and says “We’re going to have a baby!” the heart is already forming. So if you are dumb enough to think momma contributed to my problems, show some discretion and keep that opinion to yourself. Heart Moms are a special breed of woman, someone who was thrown for a loop during what should be the happiest time of her life. For the rest of her days she’s going to have an inner strength that the rest of us will envy… but she’ll live her life waiting for the other shoe to drop.

My eight year old niece has the perfect advice: “If you’re waiting on the other shoe to drop, sell that shoe on eBay! You can sell anything there!”

The wisdom of children!

There are NO limits!

August 4, 2008

“Young man,” the Emergency Room doctor said, “You are in Congestive Heart Failure.” (CHF)

Oh…. shoot! That is not what I wanted to hear. The last time I was in CHF, I was 5 months old and on my way to Johns Hopkins Hospital. This time, I had recently gotten back from the best vacation of my life, and for a few moments I wondered if it would be my last vacation.

I had traveled by AMTRAK to four different cities, watching Minor League Baseball at each stop. At the first stop in Charleston, South Carolina, I got caught in a rainstorm while waiting for the transit bus and got soaked, and woke up the next morning feeling like I was getting a bad cold. I may actually have had a small cold, I don’t know, but as I look back I think that the Heart Failure was beginning to show itself. When I got home, I was still feeling draggy and tired, but I thought it was a result of my trip. Steve had just had too much fun! But when I went out to sweep the carport — something I had done countless times before — I was so tired that I had to stop and rest twice. That’s when I realized that something may be seriously wrong here.

So what exactly is Congestive Heart Failure? Your heart is losing its ability to efficiently pump blood. Imagine that you buy a rubber ball. You bounce that rubber ball all day long, every day, for years. And it always bounces just as high as it did on the day you bought it — that’s the way a heart is supposed to work. Now imagine that you have another rubber ball, and you bounce it just as much as you did the first one. But after some time passes your ball begins to wear out, and it won’t bounce as well as it did when it was new — that’s a heart going through heart failure.

If you get a diagnosis of CHF, naturally you want to know everything about it. Most people are going to head for their computer and Google it. You’ll read that the average person with heart failure passes five years after the diagnosis. Don’t believe that!

That figure takes into account EVERYONE… the elderly who develop CHF late in life, people who are sick with something else and then go into CHF, and the small number of people who read “5 years” and decide their life is over. It doesn’t have to apply to you.

Your doctor will probably put you on a low sodium, low liquid diet. The diet is very simple but extremely difficult, all at the same time. My personal limits are 2000 milliliters of liquid a day, and 2000 milligrams of sodium per day.

The liquid is the easy part. 2000 milliliters is two liters, and you’ve seen a two liter bottle of your favorite soft drink. You can’t drink any more than that 2 liter bottle per day. That’s not really difficult. Summer months will tempt you to go over your limit, but you learn to space it out and little tricks such as popping an ice cube into your mouth.

2000 Milligrams of Sodium is the hard part. How much is that? Take two individual serving size envelopes of Sweet ‘N’ Low and pour the contents onto the table. That’s 2000 milligrams.

The first thing to do to get down to 2000 milligrams is take the salt shaker off the table. Get it away from the stove, also. No longer do you cook with it, nor do you wave the salt shaker over your food.

The next step is pretty intensive label reading. The first time I went grocery shopping after being put on the diet, it took an hour and a half longer than usual, and all that time was reading labels. Prepared meats (in general) are no longer on your list, and it seems that soups are loaded with sodium. (Soup is a double whammy; it counts against your sodium limit AND your liquid limit. So be careful with soups.)

Every morning, as soon as your feet hit the floor, you do two things: You go to the bathroom, and then you weigh yourself. Try not to wear too many clothes when you weigh and also try to wear about the same thing each time. Record your weight and keep track of it. Most Cardiologist tell you that if you gain three pounds or more in a 24 hour period and you don’t have a good explanation for it (Overindulged at a birthday party, for example) then you are having problems. Most of them ask that you call the office; usually they’ll just tell you to take an extra diuretic to get you through the day. But repeated weight gain is a good indicator of a problem.

The next step you can take is exercise. Get a good pair of shoes, a pedometer, and start walking. Can’t walk far? No problem, start small and ease into it. The first day that I walked I could barely make it half a mile; now I’m up to three miles, and could probably go further. I’m “training” for a trip to Boulder, Colorado next year; my hometown is about 200 feet above sea level. Boulder is at about 6,000 feet. I want to be able to breathe comfortably when I go out there, so I’m really trying to push myself.

Another thing is your attitude. A small percentage of people hear the dreaded phrase “You have CHF” and they quit. “Woe is me!”, they say, and they roll into a little ball and quit participating in life, and they are not long for this world. You need to have the attitude that this is just one of many challenges in your life. Do things! Go places! Even when you don’t feel 100%, go as far as you can and do as much as possible. Never give in!

Remember, I am not a medical professional, but do you remember at the beginning of this story when that doctor told me that I was in Congestive Heart Failure? That was in the spring of 2002! I weighed 206 pounds back then. Today I weigh 158, and other than this hernia (See previous post) I feel like a million bucks! So five years is not a limit!