If you want to take care of your health, you have to take control of your life

The other day a man called the office to thank me for writing Issue 98’s page 7 editorial, in which I urged readers to get a stress test if they have symptoms or a lifestyle that could lead to a heart attack. The editorial, the caller said, saved his life because he took my advice and was now on his way into surgery to get a life-saving operation to relieve coronary artery blockage.

But that was the only call we got. That means that there are at least several hundred other readers out there who are continuing to play Russian Roulette with their lives. None of my business, I suppose; people can take whatever risks they want with their lives.

Since I had my own bypass surgery to relieve my own life-threatening coronary artery blockage, I have been eating healthier and exercising, thanks to all the health information I’ve learned since my surgery. In fact, I underwent six weeks of “coronary rehab exercise,” which is essentially exercise monitored by an EKG machine and supervised by an instructor who also imparts information about how to take care of your heart and arteries. What surprised me during the cardiac rehab sessions was that most of my fellow exercisers, all of whom had gone through some sort of heart intervention such as bypass surgery, had very little knowledge about what to do to maintain a healthy heart. They neither understood the role of exercise nor grasped the importance of diet. And they didn’t seem particularly concerned about learning. Most of them were there, as far as I could tell, because their insurance was paying for the sessions.

This issue we’re trying to save at least one more life by presenting articles about maintaining or improving your health, especially by eating healthy foods that are low in bad fats and sugar, high in good fats and fiber, etc. Food is your body’s fuel. Eat poorly and your body won’t run well, especially as you get older and the years of poor eating catch up with you in the form of clogged arteries and cancers. Eat healthy and you’ll run like a Ferrari long into your 80s, unless you get unlucky.I don’t get it! Why aren’t more people interested in information that could save their lives, or at least make them live healthier? I can understand the general readership of BHM, at least those who haven’t been whacked between the eyes yet with a heart attack or other serious illness. But what about the people who have, such as many of my fellow rehab exercisers? Why aren’t they acting decisively when it comes to their own health? I sure am! I’m on a quest not only to stay alive, but to live to a healthy 90 or so. But the only way you can do that, short of being born lucky with a set of indestructible genes, is to learn about health and act on your own behalf.

Of course, there’s a catch! Not only do you have to eat healthy, but you have to eat healthy portions, i.e., not too much. You don’t have to be a scientist to figure out the consequences of being fat; just look around to see who is living longer and healthier. It isn’t fat people. Americans live in the land of plenty of food where restaurants often compete with each other by offering supersized portions. That makes it difficult to keep a healthy weight unless you are disciplined with how much you eat. If you do eat out often, better get in the habit of asking for a doggie bag if you don’t want to leave half your food on the plate.

And there’s another catch to staying healthy: You have to exercise. Your heart especially loves exercise. You can demonstrate this to yourself by taking your blood pressure before and after you exercise; blood pressure drops after exercising because the arteries surrounding the heart dilate. In fact, exercise enough, as athletes do, and your heart will build extra arteries to support the increased blood flow the exercising heart demands. In other words, exercising helps create a backup blood supply for your heart.

Health is an active-participation sport. You can’t just sit back and hope everything goes okay. As with other important aspects of the self-reliant life, you have to take control by first learning, then acting on your own half. This issue, and many of our past issues, contains articles that will help you do that.

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