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Do This Forever!

Story ID:6918
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Manhattan KS USA
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Medical issues crop up when we least expect it. Life goes along quite nicely, and all of a sudden someone you love is hit with startling test results, or perhaps a heart attack. Maybe a stroke. Your head whirls with all the new information tossed out by doctors, nurses, nutritionists and friends.

Phrases fly through the air, and you’re meant to catch them. “You’ll need to watch your diet.” “Exercise is key.” Watch your carbs.” “Think low-fat and low-cholesterol.” “Eat more fish.” There is no end to the advice.

If you have a medical issue, your first thought is that you want to do whatever you can to correct it and prevent it from becoming worse. So you agree to go on the diet and add more exercise to your daily routine. “How long will I need to be on this diet?” you might ask your doctor. His answer is like a slap in the face with a wet dishcloth. “This is not a short-term diet. You need to make a lifestyle change. It’s a forever program.”

Forever is a very long time. We’ve had three instances of facing long-term medical issues in our family. My husband had a heart attack seven years ago. Two years ago, I learned I was in a pre-diabetic state. And just recently, our fourteen year old granddaughter’s blood test during an annual physical showed she had high cholesterol. None of us can afford to ignore the advice of healthcare professionals, so we’re all making lifestyle changes.

Ken’s heart attack involved a helicopter ride to a bigger hospital for a procedure to insert a stent in the artery that had a 99% blockage. “You’re lucky to be alive,” the cardiologist told him the next day. And then he went into the diet discussion which boiled down to “Think low-fat, think low cholesterol and eat small portions at all times.” It sounded like good advice for all of us, but hearing it and doing it are two different worlds.

Ken’s cardiac rehab director stated over and over that this can’t be for the twelve weeks of rehab, it has to be a complete lifestyle change. Forever! We set about doing the things she advised. I attended a cardiac nutrition class and learned how to cut the fat and cholesterol in our diet. I learned many little tips on how to adapt family favorites to a heart-healthy dish. I worked on the diet and Ken worked on the exercise, and little by little we did make changes that will be forever. We slip back into old ways now and then, but we get right back on the program again.

It shocked me when my glucose numbers fell into the pre-diabetes range during routine blood-work for my annual physical. I’d put on twenty pounds over a two year period for no apparent reason, so my doctor added the glucose test to the standard blood test. I thought I’d been eating quite well since we’d been on Ken’s cardiac diet, but there was more to come. Now, I had to watch sugar and carbohydrates, too. It took me a week to come to terms with this new issue. I did some research and learned what foods I should avoid and the ones I needed to be sure to eat. I worked at the diet and added daily exercise for six months, and the next blood test showed a distinct drop in the glucose number. The elation I felt didn’t last long as it dawned on me that I needed to keep on with my new lifestyle of diet and exercise. Forever!

Our granddaughter is slim and trim, she’s been very active in her growing-up years with dance and cheerleading. It was startling to her parents and to us that her blood test at an annual physical showed a high cholesterol count. As we discussed it over the phone, we had to admit that her eating habits may have added to the problem. She doesn’t like cereal or fruit. She eats white rice, white pasta, white bread. No whole grains, so the amount of fiber she gets is minimal. Like most kids, she leans toward the processed goodies at the grocery store like donuts, cookies, crackers that are loaded with trans fats. And of course, add in the trans fats that are rampant in fast food place menus, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Their family is in for some big lifestyle changes. Forever!

It’s not easy to make these changes, even when you know it’s good for you. It takes some time to get your mind set to doing it. The results of making these changes aren’t always immediate. The benefits may come a long time from now, particularly in our granddaughter’s case. She needs to watch her diet now so that she isn’t having problems twenty, thirty, or forty years down the road. My husband and I both benefit now and as time goes by, we’ll continue to do so.

Ken and I have had time to adapt to our new lifestyle, but our granddaughter is at square one. She’s an intelligent girl who has tremendous determination, so I think she’ll do well as soon as she gets her mind made up to work at this new problem.

Carrying out a lifestyle change forever is a long time but so very worth it. We only have one life, and it’s up to us to live it in the best way possible. The medical world gives us the knowledge, the tools we need, and then it’s up to us. Forever!

A few tips for lifestyle diet changes

1. Think low-fat
2. Think low-cholesterol
3. Eat small portions
4. Substitute canola oil for butter in baking
5. Consider sugar substitutes
6. Add more fish
7. Add wholegrain foods
8. Avoid trans fats
9 Cut red meat consumption
10. Add fiber to your diet

Note: This article was published in the March issue of The Best Times, a newspaper for seniors in the Kansas City area