Monday, December 12, 2011

Being The Good Heart Patient


    Being the Good Heart Patient
Here’s what I’ve learned about being the good heart patient:
  1. Be involved in your care.  Ask questions. Understand your diagnosis.  Understand the medication strategy, the exercise strategy, the dynamics of the treatment.  Ask questions during your doctor’s visit.  Knowing “why” is essential, for the inquisitive, scientific, analytical mind.  You are the head nurse for your care.  No one else will supervise you.  (half of all patients who have had a heart attack DON’T take their meds!!!!)
  2. Be methodical and organized with your meds.  Get and use the appropriate pill dispenser.  Yes, you will otherwise skip some meds without this. You will forget.  I dispense and organize all my meds once a week.  Then, its done and I don’t have to remember or sort it out , and thus I am less anxious and stressed.  I am in charge.  This bit of organization greatly simplifies the process.
  3. Put a copy of your meds list (printed out by your doctor) on the inside door of the cabinet you keep all your pill bottles and your pill box.  This also eases the anxiety of the spouse as to whether or not you are being a good patient.  Also, start a file folder for this list and all the information that the pharmacist will give you.  You can take this to all your doctor visits.  They will always ask you to list your meds, even though its in your chart. I have an app on my iPhone for this.  
  4. Put the receipts for all your meds in your income tax file, as you will be deducting this expense off your taxes!  
  5. Understand your meds.  Knowing WHY you take a med is essential to engage your mental process into healing.  Some meds need to be taken with food.  Read all the info about your meds and the side effects.  You WILL have side effects from some of the meds.  Knowing that will ease your anxiety when you do experience the side effect.  Yes, you are the head nurse here.  
  6. Adopt the mind set that all of your food and all of your meds are medication for your body.  Is you ask yourself if what you are putting in your mouth at this very instant is nurturing your body, then you can eat it.  If it is not considered medicinal in the global sense, don’t eat it.  (This has been essential to me in cutting out the crap and junk, including the sugars/fats/processed food/chemically altered “food” that is out there.)  This mind set is essential when you eat out or want to snack.  “Is this medicine?” is the simple test.  (This increases consumption of veggies, whole grains, and other heart medicine.).  
  7. I love sweet, so I use honey.  Honey has tons of antioxydants and minerals.  It is medicine.  A mug of Tazo’s wild sweet orange tea in the evening, with a spoonful of honey, is dessert.  
  8. Most of my meds are vitamins (B-6, D, E).  So, I look for food that are also essentially vitamins.  I try to eat low on the food chain.  I am a caveman, a gatherer in the forest.
  9. Keep a log book.  I put in all my daily weigh ins, my blood pressure results, exercise, things I did in the day that are significant, etc.  Writing this down makes me aware and focused, and makes me pay attention to this project, which is healing and getting stronger.  It creates a self reward system.  This goes to the doctor visits, as well.  The involved, methodical patient.
  10. Exercise.   Be systematic.  Be aware of your body, and how far to push it for the day.  I find that having a “hard day” followed by a rest day is great for strength training, and for cardio (especially in the beginning).  Muscles strengthen by being used, then having a lighter day the next day.  Your body will tell you this.  Your body will tell you a lot.  
  11. Cravings.  Your body will tell you want you need to eat.  If the body is lacking in something, you will crave the food that has that.  Once in a while, I want a rib eye steak.  So, I eat steak.  Buffalo is lean, and very satisfying.  Mostly, chicken and fish.  But, now I have doctor’s orders so I can eat lots of salmon.  Life is good.  
  12. Have a support team.  You, your log book, your spouse.  Report periodically to a buddy on your progress.   Another guy in town had a heart attack about the same time I did.  We support each other.  
  13. Go somewhere to exercise.  I have a great exercise bike in the shop, but I can find a lot of excuses not to use it.  If I go to the Y, then I know I am going to exercise, and it becomes part of the weekly schedule and routine.  I make it an assigned destination for the day.  I know people who will recognize that I go to the Y and they will tell me that.  We start holding each other accountable for going there.  (The gym bag on the front seat of my car at the start of the day tells me that I need to go to the Y.  I go every other day, usually.  The gym bag nags me.  If I don’t show up at home at the end of the day in my gym shorts and stinky, my wife frowns.)
  14. Treat yourself to special exercise clothes.  I now have a medical reason to buy cozy sweatshirts, and I can wear sweat pants around the house.  Running errands in my sweatshirt is medically recommended!!  I buy tennis shoes often.  They wear out.  If you are really doing cardio, they wear out after three months.  This is a medical expense.  
  15. Reward yourself for exercising.  If I exercise during the day at the Y, I swing by Starbucks for coffee on the way back to work.  If I exercise at the end of the day, and come home for a nice hot shower, I then have a glass of wine.  
  16. Buy an iPod and some headphones.  My favorite music and exercise go hand in hand, as it alleviates the boredom and also gives me the excuse to enjoy my music.  I have an iPhone, so  the iPod is part of my phone.  You can put podcasts (radio programs) on your iPod, so you can also listen to lectures and other programs on topics you want to learn about.  I use Skullcandy headphones, which fit into my ear.  They are very light, and easy on the ears and are $8 at Fred Meyer.  Again, all this is a reward for exercising.  The time I exercise is Neal time, so I make the most of it.  (And, I avoid getting chatted up at the gym, or the obnoxious TV noise at the gym.  Fox News and stress reduction are incompatible!)
  17. Set some realistic goals, and then reward yourself for reaching them.  Improvement in cardio abilities comes in steps, so you will also plateau and not “improve” for two to four weeks at a time, and then you will suddenly improve.  It is the nature of athletic training.  Expect this, and remember that with any exercise, your heart is healing.  Rewards provide incentive.  
  18. Depression. You will experience sudden, intense spurts of deep depression, lasting up to several hours.  It is part of the recovery from trauma.  This will pass.  Work through it.  Exercise helps.  Let your spouse know this is a natural phenomenon and that you are aware of it.  
  19. Seize life.  Life is precious.  Do what you want to do.  Don’t put it off.  After my heart attack, I realized I wanted to go to California to see my foster son and his new house.  So, six weeks later, I went.  I was a little tired at the end of the day, but I had a great time.  A reward for doing my fitness and nutrition regimen.  A mental reward. 
  20. Intolerance.  I’ve found I’m a bit more blunt, and a lot more into doing things now and not “later”.  And, I am much less tolerant of the trash “projects” that seems to want to steal my time.  So, I don’t do stuff I really don’t care to do anymore.  Its liberating.  

1 comment:

Wanda said...

Amen to all of that. Glad to hear you are being a proactive good patient.

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