Sunday, January 8, 2012

Get Fit So You Don't Croak It Before Your Time

I have been catching up on my reading, and I stumbled on this December 27th post from Mark's Daily Apple, entitled "An Open Letter to Kids and Teens (and Infant Prodigies)".

In this post, Mark  encourages kids to "get healthy while you're still healthy, while you're still unbroken. It's always easier – and more effective – to keep a new knife sharp than to restore a chipped, rusty, neglected old one."

And I totally agree, and wish that I read this earlier, because I would have commented that this is true not just for kids, teens and infant prodigies, but also for those of us who are a bit older.  It is never too late to stop taking care of yourself.

I also would have commented that this advice is especailly relevant to those of us who have parents who are chronically ill, overweight, type 2 diabetic and/or have huge bellies.  We have the same genetic predispositions that our parents do, by and large, and that puts us more at risk for these same health issues than the general population.  It is both a nature and a nurture thing. 

Take me and mine, for instance.

Five years ago, there was no one in my immediate family who weighed less than 200 pounds.  My mother, at 5'1", hovered around 200.  My father, 5'9" and 210.  My sister, who was 22, at 5'4", weighed about 320 pounds and had chronic back issues.  At 26 and 5'6", I weighed 236 pounds.

My father had and has a huge belly.  He is a type 2 diabetic, with a significant medical history of cardiovascular disease.  He has had such major and near 100% arterial occlusions that he has undergone angioplasty and coronary artery bypass graft surgery.  He was 36 at the time of his first angioplasty.  He has suffered numerous strokes, transient ischemic attacks, heart attacks, and several incidents of congestive heart failure.  His diabetes is ill controlled, despite caloric restriction, compliance with the ADA diet, and pharmaceuticals. 

He happens to be in the hospital at this very moment.  Coincidentally, he was admitted on 12/27 - the date that Mark's post was written.

My dad's continuing medical issues have been a major source of inspiration in my efforts to be healthy by adopting a LCHF and mostly primal diet and by exercising.  When I started this WOE last year, I was a 30 year old, 231.5 pound, prediabetic woman with high blood pressure who needed weekend naps to keep up with my then 3 year old. 

One year ago, the week after Christmas 2010, my dad was also admitted to the hospital and nearly died of cardiac complications.  Between that admission and his CABG surgery in February 2011, dad had at least 6 incidents of congestive heart failure. 

Fast forward to today.  He is back in the hospital.  He went in because his daily diuretic meds stopped working, he retained 13 pounds of water over a 4 day period, and he was having difficulty breathing.  Since that admission, he has lost kidney function.  He has needed three dialysis treatments, and two blood transfusions.  He is still gray and swollen.  He is on prednisone as well, and his blood glucose has spiked at 500+.  It is hard to distinguish the cause of his present illness from the symptoms that he suffers.  He has so many comorbities, that when one thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong.

It sucks.  It hurts.  I am afraid for him.  He is sure that this is the year that he dies.

Yesterday, I was at Stew Leonard's - a popular grocery store near my home.  It is the kind of place that gives out samples of food items on Saturday and Sunday mornings and early afternoons.  Oddly enough, the aisles are not your typical grocery aisles, and in fact, resemble a winding path.  As a shopper, you are compelled to wander your way through the entire store, and pass by all of its offerings.  This is a one way path.  It is often the case that on a busy weekend day, you will follow the same families as they shop ahead of you. 

Yesterday, I was behind a family of very fat people.  Mom and Dad were both over 400 pounds, easily, with mom being the larger of the two, and exhibiting a large, tremulous gut, which draped down over her sweatpants-clad thighs.  The two children, a boy and a girl, were between 9-12 years old.  Each one must have weighed around 175 pounds.  The mom could barely walk.  They grazed at each food station set up along the way, often crowding around the stations and eating several individual food samples each.  Each child had entered the store ahead of us, nursing their own 20 oz bottles of Dr. Pepper.  They whined throughout the entire store that they were hungry.

I just wanted to cry.  We had left my dad's hospital room not one hour before arriving at the store.  As I looked at these parents, who were probably my age, I thought to myself:

How much time will they have before something goes seriously wrong with their health, and they die, or become disabled, and can't take care of their children? 
How sick will these children get?  How large will they grow?  Will they begin to exhibit the swollen bellies of their parents?  Do they have diabetes already? 

Life passes by quickly.  It doesn't take long to get to the place where you are so fat and sick that you probably won't survive.  Ten years ago, my dad looked pretty good for his age and moved around well.  Everything started to go downhill after that. 

I sometimes wonder whether, if he had made some changes to his WOE before the downward spiral began, he would be gray and swollen in the hospital today. 

Nope.  It is never to early to start taking care of your health.  I'd like to believe that it is never too late, either.

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