Greetings from the cold and damp Australian suburbs. Thanks for bringing your warmth to this week’s blog, my heart appreciates it. Follow this link if you’d prefer to watch or listen to the spoken word instead.
Life has a way of reminding us of the mistakes we’ve made and the path we foolishly followed in our younger years. Last week I got such a reminder when my doctor informed me that a recent scan revealed the damage caused by my past life. I was young and invincible then. I thought hardening of the arteries only happened to old people. And here I am, older now and facing the fact that I’m not invincible after all. Apart from the damage caused by smoking, drinking and poor diet, there was also a lot of anger and resentment. I have no doubt that the latter two things also caused a hardening of my heart. The result was that I didn’t love myself and I didn’t love others in the way that was healthy for my heart or for the people in my life. I have alienated some people from me because I was so damn angry. If you are one of those people, I am truly sorry.
Bite on the bum
All those years of abusing my body have come to bite me on the bum. People often tell me that I don’t look my age and until last week, I took it as a sign that my body has coped OK with the hammering that I gave it from a young age. Not to mention subjecting it to the biggest sins of them all, anger, and stress. Now at the age of 57, my coronary arteries are in fact, according to the scan results, 79 years old. How’s that for karma?!
With an increased risk of heart attack and/or stroke because I have raised cholesterol levels and hardening of the arteries, my doctor prescribed statins. I took the piece of paper and left her office feeling deflated because I don’t want to be on medication if I can possibly help it. I know people who suffer side effects from statins, and their experiences don’t fill me with joy. My husband suggested that I seek a second opinion from his doctor as he takes more of a holistic approach to a person’s health. And that’s what I did. Jack saw me right away and, although surprised somewhat by the scan result, he wasn’t overly concerned about it. He put my mind at rest by acknowledging the healthy lifestyle that I have been living for the past four years and reassured me that there are things I can do naturally to drop my cholesterol. But he also had a deeply caring chat with me about how mainstream medicine is obsessed with numbers while he believes there is so much more to us than that. He told me about the chief of cardiology at an American hospital, Dr Columbus Batiste, also known as The Healthy Heart Doc, whose approach to heart health centres around ‘SELFISH’ as an acronym. I have started following him and the whole premise of SELFISH makes a lot of sense to me.
S is for Spirituality
You might roll your eyes and beg to know how one’s spiritual life can possibly impact on one’s health. To understand this, we have to first clarify what spiritual means. It’s not about being religious i.e., following a specific doctrine or attending a church. It’s about believing in a universal energy (a higher power) that flows through all of us. I’ve written about this in previous blogs. Living a more spiritually connected life involves being more in the present and practicing meditation. It’s important to understand that when we quieten the mind and the body, we calm the nervous system and help the body to heal. There have been many studies done that demonstrate the connection between meditation and a reduction in inflammation. There are strong links between inflammation and all sorts of diseases. Is it simply a coincidence that only one letter changes the word from medication to meditation?
E is for Exercise
Suffice to say, use it, or lose it. I also love the endorphins that the brain releases as a thank you for moving the body.
L is for Love
When I feel love it warms my heart. It’s not just one-way either. When I conjure up feelings of love for others, I feel a calmness in my heart. As my husband always says to me, ‘the most important thing in life is to love and to be loved.’ Given that the act of loving has a positive impact on the heart, it is no surprise that a cardiologist would prescribe it as part of our heart maintenance routine.
F is for Food
Fibre is very important, and I get plenty of that. My only vice these days is cake and chocolate. Sadly, I must now restrict these to very occasionally as sugar is deadly when it comes to many aspects of our health. I’ve learnt recently that my vegan diet has been lacking in heart-healthy omega fatty acids as I don’t eat fish or eggs. So, I’m now adding a tablespoon of flaxseed oil to my daily diet. It will be interesting to see how this might impact on my cholesterol levels. A scary thing that I’ve learnt is this: because of osteopenia (precursor to osteoporosis) in my left hip, I have been adding calcium to my diet as I don’t eat dairy. We’re already aware of the need for Vitamin D to help the body absorb calcium however I was shocked to learn that without Vitamin K2, calcium is more likely to land in the arteries than the bones! Honestly, I’m annoyed to be only finding this out now. All calcium supplements should surely include K2. So much more to consider when it comes to diet and our health. Let food be thy medicine, as Hippocrates said.
I is for Intimacy
Being intimate is about feeling close to someone, or even a pet. It’s about being totally relaxed in their company and just being yourself. Sometimes it might only be George the Groodle who allows me to feel loved unconditionally! What’s important is to be able to feel that closeness at all. (George turned six last week, so to honour him I am including these images of him at six hours and six years old)
S is for Sleep
This goes without saying. Lack of sleep has got to be one of the worst things for us given how it strips away our vitality. I absolutely love how sobriety gave me back the gift of good sleep.
H is for Humour
Having a regular laugh is fundamental, no pun intended but interesting how fun is in there! When was the last time you had a good belly laugh? Can you remember how it made you feel? I remember when I first met my husband, it wasn’t his dashing looks and his debonair manner that grabbed my attention, it was his ability to make me laugh heartily that captured my imagination and got me thinking that a life with a man who knows how to make me laugh could be sustainable. And here we are, still together 21 years later, still laughing. OK, maybe not as often as I’d like, but this last letter of the acronym has got me thinking about how important laughter is. I know you’re reading this Damien, so nudge, nudge… make me laugh tonight!! Here’s a joke about a dog that I hope will make you chuckle.
Paddy says, ‘Mick, I’ve been thinkin’ about getting’ meself a Labrador’.
‘Feck that’, says Mick. ‘Have you seen how many of their owners go blind?’
There is a positive twist to the story of my life so far, and it is that my heart is definitely softening. I feel more at peace with the world since I kicked booze out of my life. It allows me the space to heal and grow in self-love.
Before I sign off, I want to emphasise the importance of each person taking responsibility for their own health outcomes. That may or may not involve medication but should always involve open dialogue with a health professional who is informed by the latest scientific evidence and best practice. We should never allow other people to dictate what is right for us, instead be as well informed as we can possibly be in order that we make decisions that are right for us. It’s often hard to know what’s right for us with so many conflicting opinions out there. Trust your instinct, listen to your body, and do your best to practice good self-care in all that you do. You are worth it. Thanks for being here. Love, Gill x