This week marks the 5th anniversary of the discovery of my “industrial strength” high blood pressure. If you’ve listened to any of my old podcasts (or TRL ep 1) you know this story. If not, then here’s a thumbnail.
The week before Christmas 2006 both my boys came down with the Flu. My wife and I panicked since we had a surprise after-Christmas Disney trip planned. Inevitably, I came down with the flu. On a Saturday morning, I woke with fever and the all-too-familiar “flu-eyes.” So I rushed to an after hours med care to beg for some medication to knock it out quickly. Turns out I didn’t have the flu. Instead I had very high blood pressure: 162/116. These numbers were so high that several people took my vitals. I think the entire staff had a turn at the BP cuff! So high that the med care staff almost sent me to the ER. I called my friend, Don, a physician, and he sent me to bed, wrote a scrip for BP meds and told me to see him after Christmas.
I was face to face with my own mortality. I could die. My kids could lose their father. My family would lose a provider. This was my “welcome to the 40s” moment. I was an overweight man, who loved fried foods, fast food, and was a stroke waiting to happen.
Something had to change. Mind you, I HAD been active, taking yoga classes, going to the health club, doing step aerobics, spin classes, refereeing youth and high school soccer. But all that does a man no good if he continues to eat like there is no tomorrow: wings, burgers, chicken, chips, dip, late night turkey and may sandwiches, candy, etc etc. If anything, this activity might have forestalled the stroke that should have happened long before then. I had to lose weight, get my diet under control. Change had to happen–NOW!
I decided to start running. I had run only in high school and only as training for other sports, such as football or wrestling. Running hurt, was not preferable, but I knew if anything could knock some weight off, running could. I eliminated salt from my diet. I never missed a BP med! I went from 247 lbs to 217 over a 6 month period. I felt great, ran a 5K, fell in love with running and decided to run a half marathon. Then I got lazy with my eating. While running became a great new lovely thing for me, I fell back into old habits with food choices. I gained weight, back up to 235 or so, by the time I got a new job and moved to Alabama. The running was great, the eating sucked. I embraced the idea that I would be on BP meds for the rest of my life. That High BP is “hereditary” and there’s nothing I could do about it. That it ran in my family and once you got it and were on meds there was no getting off. Little did I know that all that was BS. I felt that I was running and training for a marathon, so I had earned that order of 12 chicken wings or that BBQ. I was an idiot.
So, you know the rest of the story. In July 2009, I turned things around and finally for good. Eventually lost 75 lbs, from 231 to 156, got faster in running than I ever imagined. I learned to swim–and like it–and fell in love with cycling. Became Vegan, was removed from BP meds. Shocked my doctor who said I was a role model for this lifestyle. He’s so used to seeing southern males in the 40s get bigger and less healthy. I was a southern male, in his 40s, losing weight, getting off medication, and feeling incredible youthful. And here I am, as happy as I’ve ever been in my life. I am fit. I have the stamina of an 18 year old. I am a better father and husband. I am happier and more positive in my outlook on life than at any time in my 44 years.
So, I’ll celebrate this week, this 5 year anniversary of waking up to my health, with some great Vegan food, lots of exercise, and smile a little more than I usually do.
Thank you for being around, for supporting, for cheering, sharing in bad days and reveling in the good ones.