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Subject: [Health] Well, that was scary rss

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Michael Hopcroft
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I just got back from two days in the hospital. I'd been in an appointment with my case manager discussing something stressful (IIRC it involved an incident in which I was uncharacteristically very rude to a signature gatherer) when I started feeling shortness of breath and tightness in my chest. Twenty minutes later I was in the back of an ambulance headed to a nearby hospital, where I stayed for the next two nights.

While I had had an attack of something, testing showed it wasn't cardiac. I had to spend an extra night in the ER's Clinical Decision Unit because one last, important test couldn't be done yesterday because there were no cardiologists around to do it. I spent the entire time pretty much alone in a room, with a hospital bed and a TV, doing not a whole heck of a lot other than wait, sleep, develop a massive caffeine-withdrawal headache (they finally had to give me Diet Coke to tone it down), and run down the battery on my smartphone with music, baseball and the occasional call (fortunately they had a charger at the nurses station). When I was sent home, it was with instructions to change my diet as a preventive measure and a warning that I have a 1%-2% chance of a "cardiac event" this year.

To make matters worse, I had to use up two days' worth of time off from work that I would have preferred to use for other things.

I'm supposed to be taking it easy and resting over the weekend, but to be honest I've had enough ease-taking to last me a while....
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Brandon
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Eesh, scary.

For what it's worth, I would be willing to bet that everyone (at least over the age of, say, 25), has a 1-2% chance of a cardiac event in a year.
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I'm sorry to hear about this. I hope you will be feeling better soon - sounds a bit like you may have had a severe anxiety attack.

Hang in there, Michael.
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Michael Hopcroft
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Well, after a night sleeping in my own bed and a day shopping for healthier food (which, given my limitations as a cook, is a lot harder and more expensive than it looks) I'm getting back to a semblance of normal. Fortunately all the gear I needed to plug my PC into my TV was here when I got here (which was a bit of a surprise, because the security in my building isn't very good and I was concerned it might be stolen).

As for medical stuff, I see my Primary Care on Monday (after I go back to work -- if I miss another day I'll have used up all my time off for a while) and my case manager (where this all began) the next day. I'm going to ask to be referred to a dietitian if I can get such a referral -- one of my problems is that since I live alone cooking for one would be difficult.

I'm also concerned now that if something should happen to me while I'm at home and away from my phone (such as a bad fall in the bathroom), I wouldn't be able to get help -- turning an already-traumatic event into something potentially fatal....
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I wish I lived closer so I could be of more assistance.
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Michael Hopcroft
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I need a way to "improve" my diet -- work on reducing my cholesterol (although I haven't had a lipids check in a long time because my schedule makes fasting bloodwork difficult), work on moderating my cholesterol, keep my blood pressure under control, etc.

Conditioning improvements might help -- I could only take a few minutes of the treadmill stress test, although the cardiologist got what he said he needed. I cannot run at all, am pretty weak physically, and don't get a lot of exercise. I don't know if improvement is possible.

I also don't know what the "incident" really was, and that I find mildly alarming. What do I do if it happens again?
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George Kinney
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Michael Hopcroft wrote:
I also don't know what the "incident" really was, and that I find mildly alarming. What do I do if it happens again?


If a cardiologist worked you up and didn't find anything they can treat, then you aren't any worse off than just about everyone else who walked out of the hospital.

FWIW, anxiety can cause all the signature symptoms of a heart attack, and it doesn't always seem obvious to a person having an anxiety attack that they are having one. People call them 'panic attacks', but you might not feel 'panicked' at all, just like something is seriously wrong with you, or worrying about things being really, really risky that aren't as risky as you think they are. (like a 1% chance of a cardiac event being serious, your apartment being cleared out while you are gone, afraid to be by yourself 'just in case', etc.)

I've been there. Thought I was having a heart attack, symptoms were troubling enough that I was admitted to a cardiac unit. Had stress test, catheterization, blood tests, you name it. End result was no diagnosis. I worried about it a lot over the next couple of months, to the point I was having trouble sleeping, afraid to go out on my own, etc. Eventually my family doc put me on some anti-anxiety meds, and it became obvious to me how skewed my thoughts were during that period.

Might all be irrelevant to your situation, but thought I'd throw it out there.

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Andy Leighton
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Michael Hopcroft wrote:
I need a way to "improve" my diet -- work on reducing my cholesterol (although I haven't had a lipids check in a long time because my schedule makes fasting bloodwork difficult), work on moderating my cholesterol, keep my blood pressure under control, etc.

Conditioning improvements might help -- I could only take a few minutes of the treadmill stress test, although the cardiologist got what he said he needed. I cannot run at all, am pretty weak physically, and don't get a lot of exercise. I don't know if improvement is possible.


Improvement is nearly always possible.

Do you walk a fair bit? Increasing the distance you walk is a relatively simple way of finding some level of improvement. Maybe walk up stairs rather than take the elevator (although if you are going up loads of floors take it easy and build up the distance - you don't have to go all the way at first).
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Michael Hopcroft wrote:
I need a way to "improve" my diet -- work on reducing my cholesterol (although I haven't had a lipids check in a long time because my schedule makes fasting bloodwork difficult), work on moderating my cholesterol, keep my blood pressure under control, etc.

Conditioning improvements might help -- I could only take a few minutes of the treadmill stress test, although the cardiologist got what he said he needed. I cannot run at all, am pretty weak physically, and don't get a lot of exercise. I don't know if improvement is possible.

I also don't know what the "incident" really was, and that I find mildly alarming. What do I do if it happens again?
You can always improve your diet and your exercise habits.

Are you looking for some ideas on getting started? By this I mean things you can actually do - e.g. you don't start from zero exercise by scheduling a 5 km run every second day

Food-wise, step one is really easy: zero "sugar packaging" foods (candy, chocolate, cakes, donuts, desserts, sugar drinks like coke, etc). This is much easier than it sounds, and won't even come close to reducing the amount of "energy chemicals" your body makes for you.
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Michael Hopcroft
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andyl wrote:
Michael Hopcroft wrote:
I need a way to "improve" my diet -- work on reducing my cholesterol (although I haven't had a lipids check in a long time because my schedule makes fasting bloodwork difficult), work on moderating my cholesterol, keep my blood pressure under control, etc.

Conditioning improvements might help -- I could only take a few minutes of the treadmill stress test, although the cardiologist got what he said he needed. I cannot run at all, am pretty weak physically, and don't get a lot of exercise. I don't know if improvement is possible.


Improvement is nearly always possible.

Do you walk a fair bit? Increasing the distance you walk is a relatively simple way of finding some level of improvement. Maybe walk up stairs rather than take the elevator (although if you are going up loads of floors take it easy and build up the distance - you don't have to go all the way at first).


Most of my walking is done in stores and on the job (part of my job is to distribute faxes to the Health Coordinators in the medical office where I work). I might want to take up "mall-walking" at some point -- if I can refrain from stopping at the Dairy Queen kiosk for a peanut-hot fudge parfait (one of my many weaknesses).

Running is impossible for me -- I get winded after a few steps at faster speeds.

Another habit I probably have to change regarding food is that I tend to put off breakfast on days I work. I'm usually distracted in the mornings and popping a couple of sausage biscuits in the microwave is no longer really an option. I wonder whether homemade blueberry pancakes freeze well....

Cooking more for myself, as opposed to out of boxes, it another challenge. I just gave away a lot of food to my next-door neighbor (who has his own health challenges). It was things like Mac & Cheese that have me worried...
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It sounds like you're at the point where you can ask: "am I prepared to reorder my life in order to gain ten + active/healthy years?".

It's easy to live a (reasonably) healthy lifestyle, but it's quite difficult to change from an unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy one.
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Richard Turner
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How is your weight? Being overweight stresses the body and may contribute to your symptoms, which sound like anxiety. What is your BMI? If your BMI is outside your normal range, I would recommend weight loss as important.
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Michael Hopcroft
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RCTurner wrote:
How is your weight? Being overweight stresses the body and may contribute to your symptoms, which sound like anxiety. What is your BMI? If your BMI is outside your normal range, I would recommend weight loss as important.


I was weighed today at 238 pounds, which based on my height gives me a BMI calculation of 33.2. That puts me on the low end of Obese.

Saw my doctor today. She told me to cut off soda -- but gradually, reducing my daily consumption of caffeine by 100mg a week. I would be completely off the stuff in about six or seven weeks were I to hold to that. But it won't exactly be simple.

She also told me to enroll in one of the clinic's "Cook & Eat" classes and to completely cut red meat out of my diet in favor of leaner proteins like poultry and fish. My lipids were checked this afternoon, so we should soon have an idea of my cholesterol picture. I'm going to have to devote more time to cooking and more effort to shopping.
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Michael Hopcroft wrote:
Saw my doctor today. She told me to cut off soda -- but gradually, reducing my daily consumption of caffeine by 100mg a week. I would be completely off the stuff in about six or seven weeks were I to hold to that. But it won't exactly be simple.
That's a great recommendation for anyone.

My trick was to start alternating between water and sweet drinks. If you're like me you won't like drinking water. So just chug a glass of water whenever you're about to pour yourself a glass of soda.
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Looks like you are at least willing to take good steps towards a healthier life!

You mention you can't run at all. Neither can I at the moment, but couldn't you get there with enough practice? Have you tried looking at a Couch to 5k type schedule? That might work for you, unless there is some overall health reason why you can't run.
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Gecko23 wrote:
Michael Hopcroft wrote:
I also don't know what the "incident" really was, and that I find mildly alarming. What do I do if it happens again?


If a cardiologist worked you up and didn't find anything they can treat, then you aren't any worse off than just about everyone else who walked out of the hospital.

FWIW, anxiety can cause all the signature symptoms of a heart attack, and it doesn't always seem obvious to a person having an anxiety attack that they are having one. People call them 'panic attacks', but you might not feel 'panicked' at all, just like something is seriously wrong with you, or worrying about things being really, really risky that aren't as risky as you think they are. (like a 1% chance of a cardiac event being serious, your apartment being cleared out while you are gone, afraid to be by yourself 'just in case', etc.)

I've been there. Thought I was having a heart attack, symptoms were troubling enough that I was admitted to a cardiac unit. Had stress test, catheterization, blood tests, you name it. End result was no diagnosis. I worried about it a lot over the next couple of months, to the point I was having trouble sleeping, afraid to go out on my own, etc. Eventually my family doc put me on some anti-anxiety meds, and it became obvious to me how skewed my thoughts were during that period.

Might all be irrelevant to your situation, but thought I'd throw it out there.



What George said above.
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Kempeth wrote:
Michael Hopcroft wrote:
Saw my doctor today. She told me to cut off soda -- but gradually, reducing my daily consumption of caffeine by 100mg a week. I would be completely off the stuff in about six or seven weeks were I to hold to that. But it won't exactly be simple.
That's a great recommendation for anyone.

My trick was to start alternating between water and sweet drinks. If you're like me you won't like drinking water. So just chug a glass of water whenever you're about to pour yourself a glass of soda.


I slip occassionally but I got off soda (you should get off diet soda, too) by switching to seltzer water. I do seltzer water and coffee at work. I'm not off caffine but the soda, and the chemicals in it, I'm off of. It's a bitch but the fizz in the seltzer takes care of the ritual of the soda.

Think about a Sodastream sometime. If anything, if you are buying cans of soda, try cans of seltzer.

My diabetic nurse agrees with me on this one thing. You have to think of everything as a change in lifestyle. Not a diet or stuff like that. Keep working at the goal. You will slip (I certainly do). I have made huge strides over the last year...even when I feel like I didn't. And it's showing on my blood work.

One tip I learned when shopping. Go along the outside of the grocery store and try to avoid the aisles as much as possible.
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Michael Hopcroft
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Right now I'm thinking about dinner tomorrow. It will be my big meal, as I have appointments in the afternoon that would make making a good lunch an adventure. And since I'm cooking for just me, I'm wondering if, and how, I can save some of what I make.

I used to make a lot of Hamburger Helper. Making any more of that would be a bad idea. (If you're not in North America, this is what it is according to the manufacturer -- and it's clear that "manufactured" food is something I will have to do sparingly at best). I've seen a couple of recipes online for "homemade" versions of some of the popular "Flavors". This site offers some ideas on how to use better ingredients to improve the results, and I suppose experimenting with the spices would help. I plan to substitute ground turkey if I do something like that, and will probably wait until a couple of weeks from now when I can buy the spices and other ingredients.

One of the things my doctor told me to avoid is red meat. Fast food in general is a no, and I don't think I'll be taking any pizza deliveries anytime soon. If I want to eat pizza, it looks like I'll have to make it myself, with a sauce that relies more heavily on spices and herbs than on salt. (I also hope I can find a way to make dough for it).
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Abstract for an AMJ article that says eating better means you age better:
http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343%2813%2900080-6/abst...

Some exercise comments/suggestions:

* You must exercise, but that doesn't have to be unpleasant. The hard bit is accepting that you must spend 5 to 10 hours per week on activities that count as exercise.
* For now, the only exercise rule that matters to you is that you have to get your heart and breathing rates up so you get a bit red in the face for about 20 minutes. The color is a natural response to the moderate metabolic speed-up you're looking for.
* Brisk walking for 25 to 40 minutes is a solid start. "Brisk" is "fast enough to keep your face a bit red" (you don't need a mirror BTW - you can feel it). If, at the start, this corresponds to "walk 500 meters in 40 minutes" that's fine. You'll speed up soon enough. And you won't need a stopwatch or a personal trainer to recognize this
* You don't need to spend a lot of money on fancy gear, and you shouldn't (yet). If you like walking, you can buy shoes with proper "running shoe" heel padding that look like, and are, also street shoes. But make these your only investment in gear. At first you'll probably feel better in casual clothes (e.g. loose jeans and a t-shirt), and at first they will be sufficient. No crazy walking staves, brightly colored T-shirts, track suits, etc.
* Don't start off with running. You'll need to toughen up your muscles and sinews a lot before you run. Walking isn't quite enough, but it's a pre-req.
* Other low-stress exercises include swimming and low intensity / high reps work on machines in a gym. There are more, but it really doesn't matter what you start with, so choose something cheap with a low startup threshold.
* The torture regimen you may have seen on TV's "Biggest Losers" is pathetic bullshit. You want to return your body to its natural "steady state". You don't want to rush it (this causes physical stress/damage, which is the opposite of your real objective). You're not (currently) aiming for a "bodybuilder" result either. A body builder wants to be overly-muscled, rather than get to a nice steady state, so for them "no pain, no gain" has meaning. For you, it currently isn't a useful guide. So don't employ some lunatic to scream "just one more rep" at you.
* There's one kind of "exercise pain" you're interested in. Light exercise does generate endorphins, intended to remove the mild ache of working your muscles. The way it works is there's a period when your muscles seem to be telling you to stop, which goes away after 5 to 15 minutes or so (faster if you're used to exercising, which seems a little unfair to beginners At first, just use the "a little red in the face" guideline. Try to "feel" the endorphins taking effect though - later it will be a useful indicator.


Learning to cook different food is an interesting topic too. I've noticed there are plenty of people in chit-chat who can cook. Perhaps a sub-topic on that would be useful?
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Some thoughts on food:

Less meat, less refined grains, less processed food, etc means more fruit and vegetables.

Fruit is easy to handle, but it takes a while to learn how to prepare and cook vegetables. On the plus side, it takes a lot more veg to make 200 calories than it does meat - if you use them more you don't have to reduce your portions at all

Are you effectively a beginner in preparing vegetables?
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gyc365 wrote:

* Other low-stress exercises include swimming and low intensity / high reps work on machines in a gym.


Cycling too is a great low-stress exercise - either on a machine or using a bike on the road or trails. The good thing is that you might be able to build it in to your day to day life - travelling to and from work for example.
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andyl wrote:
gyc365 wrote:

* Other low-stress exercises include swimming and low intensity / high reps work on machines in a gym.
Cycling too is a great low-stress exercise - either on a machine or using a bike on the road or trails. The good thing is that you might be able to build it in to your day to day life - travelling to and from work for example.
Agree. In a cycle-friendly area it's as good as any of the options I mentioned for training, and is potentially the best of the lot for time-efficiency.

@OP:
You don't need a high-performance cycle to train, because you're not in a hurry. Any sturdy modern frame is ok.
You should definitely use one with a modern gearing system and "on handlebar" changers though. Cycles are very efficient on a flat surface at their correct cruising speed, but even a small incline changes the numbers a lot. You need low gears to keep the "correct cruising speed" in balance with your leg strength.
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Michael Hopcroft
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gyc365 wrote:
andyl wrote:
gyc365 wrote:

* Other low-stress exercises include swimming and low intensity / high reps work on machines in a gym.
Cycling too is a great low-stress exercise - either on a machine or using a bike on the road or trails. The good thing is that you might be able to build it in to your day to day life - travelling to and from work for example.
Agree. In a cycle-friendly area it's as good as any of the options I mentioned for training, and is potentially the best of the lot for time-efficiency.

@OP:
You don't need a high-performance cycle to train, because you're not in a hurry. Any sturdy modern frame is ok.
You should definitely use one with a modern gearing system and "on handlebar" changers though. Cycles are very efficient on a flat surface at their correct cruising speed, but even a small incline changes the numbers a lot. You need low gears to keep the "correct cruising speed" in balance with your leg strength.


What if you never learned how to ride a bike? Three-wheelers are too bulky and slow to be good for travel, and I have never seen training wheels for an adult bike retail. Most people learn to ride bikes as kids, but my first and only bike was stolen the day after I got it and nobody cared (and of course it was the 1970s so the bike wasn't insured).

How much would I expect to have to pay for everything I would need to start biking (bike, helmet, headlight and reflector, training wheels if I can get them....)
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Michael Hopcroft wrote:
gyc365 wrote:
andyl wrote:
gyc365 wrote:

* Other low-stress exercises include swimming and low intensity / high reps work on machines in a gym.
Cycling too is a great low-stress exercise - either on a machine or using a bike on the road or trails. The good thing is that you might be able to build it in to your day to day life - travelling to and from work for example.
Agree. In a cycle-friendly area it's as good as any of the options I mentioned for training, and is potentially the best of the lot for time-efficiency.

@OP:
You don't need a high-performance cycle to train, because you're not in a hurry. Any sturdy modern frame is ok.
You should definitely use one with a modern gearing system and "on handlebar" changers though. Cycles are very efficient on a flat surface at their correct cruising speed, but even a small incline changes the numbers a lot. You need low gears to keep the "correct cruising speed" in balance with your leg strength.


What if you never learned how to ride a bike? Three-wheelers are too bulky and slow to be good for travel, and I have never seen training wheels for an adult bike retail. Most people learn to ride bikes as kids, but my first and only bike was stolen the day after I got it and nobody cared (and of course it was the 1970s so the bike wasn't insured).

How much would I expect to have to pay for everything I would need to start biking (bike, helmet, headlight and reflector, training wheels if I can get them....)


Check out Craigslist - Portland is, BY FAR, one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. You'll find lots of decent deals out there.

As to learning...uhhh...actually, I've got no idea. I can't remember NOT knowing how - it's pretty much the same as walking, really (which, if you think about it, is basically just 'controlled falling'). It's all about momentum. But it IS Portland, so...I'd be willing to bet there are groups out there aimed at teaching specifically that.
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gyc365 wrote:
Some thoughts on food:

Less meat, less refined grains, less processed food, etc means more fruit and vegetables.

Fruit is easy to handle, but it takes a while to learn how to prepare and cook vegetables. On the plus side, it takes a lot more veg to make 200 calories than it does meat - if you use them more you don't have to reduce your portions at all

Are you effectively a beginner in preparing vegetables?


At work we always have a bowl of tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, cuccumber and other snacklike fruits and vegetables. It helps not to snack candy during long days at the desk.

I find an oatmeal breakfast helps not to be hungry until at least half past 12 and then I mostly eat salads based on beans (a different one every day) and lettuce or I bake a parsnip cake or pumpkin pie or other vegetable based sweet cakes the day before. For dinner I mostly make a big meal in the weekends which I can defrost during the week, like a vegetable rich lasagne or pasta, and I eat a lot of easy Indonesian foods, like gado gado.

All in all it helps to eat a lot of vegetables during the day and by that reduce eating other less healthy things

(my only real sins are coffee and beer)

If you need some easy, fast to prepare recipes, please let me know
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