One year ago today I had a heart attack and was hospitalized for a few days. A little scary at the time, especially since I figured I was immune to any cardiac problems with my lifestyle. But a year has gone by, I'm still kicking and I've learned a little about heart health and a few other things in the meantime. As a public service allow me to pass a few of these along.
First of all, as my old pal Dobak used to say, save your money. School teachers are one of the few remaining groups that have defined benefit retirement programs and because of that I was able to take an early retirement. With my pension and the gig at the college, I'm doing OK financially and hope to be able to take in the view as seen in the above photo. Soon. Now when I say I'm doing OK, remember that I've been a school teacher for 37 years. Not a lucrative profession but I've lived within my means and made some good decisions when I was young. Like buying life insurance. Sounds silly now days, but I've got a couple of whole life insurance policies that are now paying enough of a dividend to cover the premium and give me a little something extra in addition to the peace of mind that comes from knowing the Missus will have a few bucks when I'm called "up yonder". I just received a dividend check for the ginormous sum of sixty bucks. Enough for about a half a tank of gas is all but if I wanted to make sixty bucks off the interest in a savings account, I'd need to have $600,000.00 in the bank with the lousy rate of return the banks are giving now. Now you're actually better off spending rather than saving because you can't even keep up with inflation. I don't know how you can put any money away but you need to plan long range and save something, somehow.
Second, take control of your health. I'm probably as well informed on nutrition and the causes of heart disease now as the average doctor. However, that's not saying too much. There's all kinds of conflicting information out there and the approach you need to take is something you need to determine. But like saving money, you do need to determine it. In my case I've learned that exercise makes for healthy, strong heart muscle but that won't necessarily take care of the plumbing supply. We're looking at two separate issues here. Strong heart muscle is good but ultimately requires arteries that are plaque free. Stress and anger can increase the risk of a heart attack by over 200 times. Yes, 200 times. So that might be the first place to start. "You need to get your mind right, Luke." In retrospect, stress probably was the biggest issue leading to my cardiac event. That plus the genetic factor.
In order to further take control of your health, you must control what goes into your body. Tobacco is not good, nor alchohol in any quantitiy beyond a drink or two per day. Everyone knows this. Not much research needed to verify it. Just stop by the corner tavern and take a look at the regulars who've been holding down the stools for years. Most of those dudes look pretty rough.
Now we come to diet. While not professing to be an expert on nutrition, I can tell you that most everything that is processed is junk and should not be eaten. Should you be a vegan? It's been working for me. It's tough when you travel or go out to dinner sometimes but I think for me it's the best plan. For you? I've got no idea. There is so much conflicting information out there. I do think that whatever path you chose should include real foods, whether that's grains, vegetables, fruits, or meat. Stuff that hasn't been compromised by additives, steroids, hormones, trans fats, or high fructose corn syrup. Eat fresh, eat what's in season, eat organic and stay away from any place that has a drive up window.
Lastly, enjoy yourself. Treasure your family and friends. Strive for harmony and balance in your life. Learn to take control by knowing when to let go. Give a little something back when you can. I've been able to make what some would say are drastic lifestyle changes relatively easily. I attribute that to being in the position that I could. I was able to start a new phase of my life with a new diet, new doctor, new job, and a new outlook on life due to the support of family and friends and a little foresight. Probably more than a little luck as well.
So there you are. Even though I had a heart attack, I'm enjoying every day I've been granted on this earth. I'm still looking and moving forward and no matter what the future holds, I still out lived Elvis by twenty years.