Friday, October 2, 2009

VeganMoFo Day 2 - McDougalling and My Heart

First of all, let me silently curse out Blogger for deleting a post I spent an hour writing - complete with links, a recipe and a photo - because I tried to preview it to see where the software deposited said photo. Now I have to start all over again.

If you look down at my post of September 17th you'll see that I was recently hospitalized for a weird cardiac myopathy called Takotsubo Syndrome. I went into the emergency room with high blood pressure (220/110) and a pressure in the chest which I had attributed to my asthma (the landlord put some air freshener sprayer in the back hallway and even my food tasted like that crap smelled. My son and I were both wheezing and coughing for a few days and we were both complaining of the same chest and back pressure, something we both have been having for almost 20 years now.). The EKG was fine, my blood pressure was back to normal within a half hour of plopping my butt on the stretcher, and the pain and pressure was all gone before the intake information was completed. But the cardiac enzymes were slightly elevated (troponin level was 1.7, for you nurses and docs out there) so I was immediately slapped with a diagnosis of impending myocardial infarction (heart attack, for you non-medical people) and was scheduled for cardiac catheterization and admitted to the telemetry unit and prepped. The cardiologist made a cursory appearance at my bedside before the procedure and we spoke briefly about the low fat vegan McDougall plan that I was already following. He didn't believe me. He said people on McDougall (or Ornish, Barnard, Esselstyn - he actually knew them!) don't get heart attacks.

He was right. I didn't have a heart attack. My coronary arteries were as clear as can be and there were no ischemic (scarred) areas. What I did have was something called Takotsubo Syndrome, a.k.a. coronary stunning, broken heart syndrome, and a few other names. It was discovered in Japan in the 1990's and named "Takotsubo" because what happens to the heart resembles a Japanese octopus (tako) trap (tsubo). According to the Takotsubo Syndrome web site, it happens in post-menopausal women (check) who have been under a lot of stress (check) and have anger issues (check again). This is my favorite quote from that web site:
". . .
occur in post-menopausal women under some form of extreme, exceptional and prolonged mental stress,... with no good way out, no relief and often feeling deep resentment . . ."
Oh, yeah! That suits me to a "T" for sure! Money worries, worrying about whether or not my husband will get laid off, worrying whether or not my son with the Master's in electrical engineering will ever get a job (He's been unemployed since graduation over a year ago), worrying about an elderly aunt with Alzheimer's Disease who lives an hour away and refuses to move into assisted living (We spent our entire summer vacation trying to get her into a place, only to have her sign herself out of rehab and go home), and the number one worry on the hit parade, my weight. I've been on diets practically every day of my 55-plus years of life. Unless I ate 1000 calories a day or less, I would gain weight.

I even gained weight on McDougall's Maximum Weight Loss version of his food plan unless I dropped calories to 1000.

So, here I was, a bundle of nerves, stressed to my limit with life in general, then having my doctor nag me incessantly about my weight. No matter what I did, he was mad. I gained a few pounds (when my TSH rose to hypothyroid levels at the same time my plantar fasciitis prevented me from exercising much) and he was mad. I stayed the same weight eating 1200 calories but again, no exercise because of foot pain, and he was mad. I lost 20 pounds in one month (much of it water weight because I had gained 5 pounds overnight before the previous weigh-in from salty spaghetti sauce) and he was mad. I followed the food plan he *insisted* I follow (2000 calories SAD) and obviously gained weight, and even though I warned him ahead of time it would happen he was mad.

I don't need this added stress on top of all my other stress!

Then the elderly relative mentioned above not only refuses to let the homemaker into the house but calls the cops on the roofer who came to do an estimate, even after we put signs all over her house reminder her the roofer was coming.

And even though I was again starving myself on 1000 calories a day my weight went up again.

And my heart exploded. Well, that's how my family and I like to describe it. The ventricle wall is bulging and weakened - Takotsubo Syndrome. Brought on by unrelenting stress with no hope of reprieve.

The cardiologist is happy I'm sticking to McDougall, but insists I will lose weight on it. I reminded him yesterday that I haven't lost weight on it in the 10-plus years I've been on it already. He says to exercise more. I'm going to the cardiac rehab that he insisted I go to and I'm exercising as much as the nurses there tell me to safely do. He even said before I started not to do anything extra, do only what they ordered. I told them this morning what the doc said and they said the same thing - I'm already doing the max I'm safely allowed to do.

". . . occur in post-menopausal women under some form of extreme, exceptional and prolonged mental stress,... with no good way out, no relief and often feeling deep resentment . . ."

Don't these doctors realize that insisting I go to extremes to lose weight, even the 5-plus decades of yo-yo dieting, most likely contributed to my current heart condition? And don't they realize that if I continue to stress over the lack of weight loss, even though I'm doing everything right, that it's going to prevent me from healing and may lead to even more serious problems in the future? Nope. They're clueless.

In the three 1/2 weeks since I weighed myself the day before entering the hospital I've lost 14 pounds. Since discharge 3weks ago tomorrow I lost 6 pounds. I see my primary care doc Monday for lab test results (and hopefully get my thyroid med increased back to pre-hospitalization level. He immediately cut it in half upon discharge wondering if that had something to do with my problem. Quite the opposite- too low a thyroid level can further stress the body leading to even more harm.) and a weigh-in. I know he'll be mad, as he wanted to see a 5 pound a week loss, claiming that now he'll have proof that I'm exercising and naturally I had to be lying before, so now the weight should be melting right off. He still refuses to believe I was exercising before my heart thing! So frustrating. So stressful!

But tomorrow is the weekend and I'll have my husband home for 2 days with no plans to see the elderly relative to shop, cook, clean, or take her anywhere or let any contractor in. She finally agreed to the homemaker, although in the 2 weeks she's been going there all she's done is sit and have coffee with her - no housework, no shopping, not even out for a walk. My husband told the aunt we're no longer going to do her shopping and that we're not coming to visit this weekend. It's been 2 weeks since we last did grocery shopping for her (Yes, one week after my discharge I was grocery shopping for this woman!) so I know she's getting low on many items, especially bread, like and orange juice, so she better send that woman to the store and make her earn her $21/hour fee!

See, I get all riled up over things! Eating the healthy McDougall way and going to cardiac rehab for exercise are only 2 parts of my recovery. Stress prevention and relief is the other, and as long as elderly relatives are around and as long as doctors are going to harp on me to lose weight, I doubt I'll ever achieve full health again.

But back to VeganMoFo and food, glorious food! I'm the type of person who lives to eat, and tehre are plenty of tasty and healthy foods available on the McDougall program. Yesterday I mentioned the pumpkin bread. Well, it never got made. We discovered that we still had almost a dozen bananas getting nice and brown and soft so my husband requested banana bread, instead. I've written about the Best Banana Bread from Anne Cryle Esselstyn a number of times during last year's VeganMoFo so I'll just link to it and say no more about it. A photo is better, anyway:
Best Banana Bread


Today is Friday, our family's usual pizza day. Once again my guys will have their pie and I'll finish up some leftovers in the fridge. I make way too much rice and veggies on Tuesdays that by the time it's finished it's time to make it again (every Tuesday, at my son's request).

In the oven this afternoon I'll have a pot of baked beans going. The recipe is from Letha's MWLP blog and it's the first time I'm using it, so keep your fingers crossed. We used to eat Bush's Baked Vegetarian Beans all the time, but with my new sodium restrictions that's now off-limits to me. I'll try remember to snap a picture when I take it out of the oven later. Tomorrow I'll probably open a can of Bush's for my husband and have the freshly made beans for myself for lunch and dinner. Just plop them on salad greens and serve with some soup (I have leftover Double Pea Soup from Veganomicon Double Pea Soup in the fridge for myself and a few cans of tomato hubby can finish up.) and it's a great Fall weather meal.

Sunday's dinner hasn't been decided on yet, but it's usually burgers on whole wheat rolls with tons of lettuce and tomatoes and a squirt of ketchup. The guys usually ask for fries with that and I usually say No, but maybe this week I'll give them a treat.

They've been so good to me since my heart thing, refusing to let me do any heavy lifting, trying to protect me from stressful circumstances, like hospital bills (which stresses me out even more because the last thing I saw was a notice from the insurance company saying they're refusing to pay for the second day). My husband finally relented when he caught me crying over finances the other night and told me all he's done, that the day is covered, as is all the other stuff they initially denied (that I didn't even know was denied because he kept the news from me).

The cardiologist gave me a clean bill of health yesterday and told me I have no restrictions, to go out and live life to the fullest. Finally my husband is relaxing and is telling me things (like about the insurance brew-ha-ha) and is letting me do things on my own again, like go to the grocery store or laundromat. It'll be so nice to get out again without an escort! But they were as scared as I was those days in the hospital, so I have to cut them some slack. And banana bread. And pizza. And surprise them with oven fries. It's the little things that make life worth living.



1 comment:

Bex said...

Enter Vegan MoFo, stress free yummy food zone. Welcome to the party :)