High Risk of a Heart Attack

As I close in on my fourth decade on this earth, I realize it’s time to start getting serious about my health. I’ve made some incremental improvements to my health after getting my first kidney stone 5 years ago.

However, most of those changes focused on my diet, which went from horrific to embarrassing. As I approached my late thirties, I certainly wasn’t eating like a teenager anymore, but I also wasn’t eating like a responsible adult. Far too much sugar (my one and only vice) and far too few fruits and vegetables. My sedentary life and unhealthy diet began to show up on my scale and on my waistline.

Time to Visit the Doctor

I also hadn’t had a yearly physical for close to 2 decades. My justification was as long as I could keep my weight within a reasonable range (below 165 on my 5’10” frame) I didn’t need to go to the doctor.

As I crept closer to 170 I knew I had to do something to get myself back down to a “healthy weight”. I attempted being a vegetarian for about a month, but I just couldn’t get myself back down below 165. In fact, I surpassed 170 and eventually tipped the scales at 173 before I scheduled a physical.

The physical went as expected: cut down the sugar and carb, lose some belly fat and build some muscle. I was a little surprised that my doctor wasn’t a fan of a vegetarian diet, but if he’s going to tell me to eat meat, who am I to argue.

He left me with a list of changes to make: add bodyweight exercises to my week, give intermittent fasting another shot, and add some vitamins to my new low carb, low sugar diet. Then it was off to have my blood drawn for the tests he wanted to run.

All in all, I felt pretty good about things. The changes I  had to make were things I already knew. Over the next few days, I started intermittent fasting again. Adding fruits and vegetables to my diet. I even started doing a few push-ups.

The Blood Work Results

The next week I received a voicemail message from the nurse. It was the “call us back as soon as possible” type of message with a certain amount of panic in her voice. I obliged and learned that I was at high risk of having a heart attack. My doctor added Niacin to my list of vitamins to take and wanted to see me in 6 months.

Logically I knew that with my family history, I was at risk of heart disease. But there was something alarming about getting a message like this. My paltry attempts at having a salad or two and doing a few push-ups didn’t seem to fit with the concern in nurses voice or with the message she was relaying.

Here’s What My Blood Work Looked Like. I don’t think all those H’s mean Healthy.

Drastic Changes Ahead

  • Despite my doctor’s wishes, I switched from a mostly vegetarian diet to a mostly vegan diet. (I’ll eat meat or animal products if I go out to a restaurant to eat, but at home, I only eat a whole plant based diet: fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, etc.).
  • I opened that Couch to 5K app that I’d downloaded 6 months ago and went for my first run. (It didn’t go well.)
  • I started counting my calories for the first time in my life.
  • I set some exercise goals and began tracking my progress (again for the first time in my life).
  • I started a second attempt at Intermittent Fasting, but this time with a very specific goal in mind: Get down to 155 lbs, 18 lbs less than my highest weight.

24 Comments

  1. Smart man! Going primarily whole food plant based, it might actually safe your life. We have been doing this for 3 years now and find it a struggle at times, but the benefits far outweigh the downsides.

    Major noticeable improvement I found was my recovery durations after intense workouts, these have been so much shorter after going WFPB (used P90X before and after as my reference). Even Mrs. CF, whom had not been working out in years, had virtually no muscle ache or tired legs/arms after starting at the gym again. it surprised her at lot.

    Best of luck!

    1. That’s really interesting. I hadn’t been much for working out prior to this, but have been working out since making these changes. The first month was pretty rough, but I’ve been feeling much better this past month. I equated that to getting in shape, but hearing this my diet change may also be playing a role. I appreciate the support!

      1. There are good (scientific) reasons why athletes like Lewis Hamilton and various Ironman and ultra marathon runners, footballers go WFPB, they perform better (due to less inflammation in their joints, muscles and arteries) and have shorter recovery times. The science behind it is quite interesting.
        Curious to see how your blood work will affected the next time your go in.

  2. Investigate the keto diet. I have been on it for 8 months and I have never felt better. I did not go on it to lose weight, but tested it along those lines and dropped 17 pounds in 2 months. I went on it for its potential anti-carcinogenic effects having a family with multiple deaths from various cancers. Bottom line after being on it, never felt better. Just feels like the way your body is supposed to be fueled. Tons of energy, aches and pains diminished or eliminated, and never hungry. And look at you tube videos on line by various Doctors – Peter Attia, Gary Fetke, Ivor Cummins, etc., etc. literally for impact on cardio-vascular disease and multiple others. Will leave it at that. Good luck.

    1. I appreciate the tip. I’ve heard some good things about a ketogenic diet. My goal is to reduce the amount of cholesterol I consume (i.e. animal products) as much as possible before my next blood test to see how it impacts my numbers. This is why I’ve gone mostly Vegan, but I’m not sure that is a long-term solution for me. So I might look into the keto diet down the road.

  3. Better to know now while you can do something about it. The problem with a lot of health-related things, such as cholesterol problems or high blood pressure, is that you don’t really have any symptoms. It sounds like you’ve got a great plan and starting point. Best of luck to you!

  4. Well, the problem here is with the H(ealthy – sorry, I had to laugh at that point :)) marked cholesterol levels, right? Made a fast calculation which says you are almost 178cm tall (same as myself) and your weight was roughly 178.5kg at most. I was taught that the ideal weigh for a male is height minus 100 (110 for woman). This makes your weigh almost perfect, however some say this method is outdated. Based on some semi-muscular guys I know I can accept this as a good estimation. I would be happy to achieve that ratio again, currently I am 10kgs more than I should. Also, last time when a doc saw my blood results he said that it is ok.

    I had this transition to more fruit/veggies a little bit more than a year ago and it really helps (I had some stomach problems). It is hard sometimes, especially when people around you are very conservative about food. My father has a saying “the best salad is which grunts” (however his work is physical so he is in better shape than me).

    Keep up with the good work, we need some inspiration over here 🙂

    1. You got my height right, but I think the weight is a typo. I think 178.5kg would put me close to 400 lbs. 78.5kg, however, is exactly on target. My doctor did say that my weight wasn’t a problem, but my “body composition” was. Which I think was his kind way of saying I have too much fat and too little muscle for my weight.

      1. Omg yes, sorry, I meant 78.5kg. Can totally relate to the composition problem too. Just did not took this seriously so far and when someone was asking about it I always handled it with jokes.
        On body composition: “what, I have the body of a god, just more on a buddhist way than the greek…”
        On my diet: “I am on the aubergine diet. I eat everything, but aubergine…”
        On jogging: “why should I run, when no one is chasing me?”
        Definitely a field for improvement…

  5. Sounds like you’re on the right track. Stay healthy! I think were having another fitness challenge that you can join to hold yourself accountable. I’ll keep you posted.

  6. You’ve got this MSF! Diet and exercise plague me as well. I was doing really good there for a few months and now I feel like I’ve got some ground to make up. My big thing is stress. When I am stressed everything else goes out the window.

      1. Yep, stress has been something that I am realizing has such an impact on my life and I am attempting to combat it when it starts to creep up. I’ve got a ways to go, but at least I am starting to become aware of it.

  7. I am 43 and a recent unpleasant visit to my doctor (borderline type 2 diabetes) spurred me to ‘fix’ my problems, I am down 25 lbs and testing normal for blood sugar. Nothing like a scare to get you straight.

    1. Congrats on the weight loss. With the amount of sugar I’ve consumed, I’m surprised that diabetes wasn’t a concern for me, but I’m sure had I kept it up for a few more years I would have been right there with you.

  8. You may remember I had fair results (lost 5 lbs) earlier this year by severely cutting down on added sugar. It’s incredible how much added sugar is included in processed foods. If you stick to a whole plant based diet, that should eliminate it.

    I’ve never tried it, but I have heard cutting out alcohol completely works wonders for some people.

    You are moving in the right direction. Good luck!

  9. The tricky thing is my doctor suggested more exercise, as I had a plantar faciitis flare up. My other complication is finding time. This time of year I want to hibernate with the short days. I guess we’ll see what I can motivate myself to do.

    1. I think I picked the worst possible time to pick up running. It’s really cold where I am and takes a lot of motivation to get out there and run. But I usually warm up after moving my body for a few minutes.

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