My little scare two weeks ago with Bell's Palsy - where I knew I had had a stroke - really got my attention.
I've come to the conclusion that I want nothing to do with a stroke (hey, there's a shocker!). Especially for a "Type A" personality like me, a stroke would be perhaps the worst possible affliction to get (short of death).
I cannot overstate the gripping fear I felt when my brain told my face to do something, and my face didn't respond. A swift kick to the, uhm, gut.
So, I've made some changes to my lifestyle. It's really nothing dramatic, but more of a conscious effort to add a little bit of this, and remove a little bit of that.
Strokes are caused by your blood clumping up in your veins and a big wad-o-clot hits your brain, causing that portion to die. Or, they're caused by a blood vessel in your brain "blowing" out, killing a portion of your brain.
That means you want to have relatively thin blood, and you want to have lower blood pressure so you're not pumping so hard into your veins, causing a rupture (high blood pressure is called, hypertension).
I also want this to be as pill-free as possible. I have no desire to become a walking pharmacy. I want to change my habits, not increase my intake of store-bought wonder pills.
And of course, as a hard-core prepper, I want to be self-sufficient. I assume all medication becomes unavailable, I need to fend for myself. It makes no sense to become dependent upon pills when natural remedies are available.
Foods (where specific foods are listed, these are foods I like. There are many other foods that may fit a category, but I just don't like them. Sweet potatoes are on the "high potassium" list, for instance. I won't eat them unless every other good food has vanished from the face of the earth!)
Blood thinning foods: peppers, garlic, ginger, dill, oregano, dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, cherries), Vitamin B6 foods (legumes and whole grains).
This has entailed really only two major changes - peppers and more dried fruit. I've started eating a lot more jalapenos and much more cayenne. I'm already a garlic freak and really like dill and oregano. No big stretch here.
Hypertension foods: dairy/calcium (milk, cheese, yogurt), high potassium foods (dried apricots, bananas, beans, greens, clams, pork, yogurt, potatoes with skin)
This is no stretch at all. I eat a cup of yogurt almost every morning, and usually have a banana or raisins each day. My most consumed meat is pork, and any excuse to add more clams to my diet is very welcome. As with the blood thinning, I will just add more dried fruits and should be good to go.
Yoga, meditation and exercise
Clearly, this will be the most difficult for me, but I've already seen the benefits. I simply must make it a priority each and every day.
I do a couple of simple yoga exercises (sunrise salute is always in the mix) for about 10 minutes. The meditation is simply sitting cross-legged and doing a focused breathing exercise (100 slow, deep breaths).
I occasionally get this fairly sharp, but short-lived pain in my left ear/jaw/neck region. It kind of "radiates" - like when you turn a light on slowly with a dimmer switch - then goes away. Without exception, when I've done this yoga stuff, I have a much lowered (or eliminated) pain in by ear/neck/jaw on my affected side. It's really quite cool.
I already have a regular weight lifting regime that I follow, and am trying to figure out a cardio component. We've got an elliptical walker in the house - which I hate - and I just got a bike - which I love. It's all about making the time to work them into my day. I need to make this a priority.
B & C complex vitamin supplements - This is my one pharmacology nod. The B complex helps with the blood thinning and also works to protect the myelin sheath (the protective covering around your nerves). 500mg per day of vitamin C is good for hypertension.
Bell's Palsy update: Today is two weeks to the day since it hit. There's been very minor improvement. I can drink almost normally from a cup, I can almost "chug" from a gallon of milk from the fridge (my wife's thrilled about that - not!), if I take my time, I can hold most conversations with only a bit of a lisp with the S's, P's (the hardest to control) and the F's. Honestly, I think it's more about having learned how to compensate than it is about improvement.
I went an saw my regular doctor today. He looked at me and had to ask which side was affected, so that made me feel good. To be safe, he's sending me to a neurologist to give me the once-over. Cool.
The ER doc had said I could expect improvement within 10 days, while everything I saw on the Internet said more like a month to 6 months. Holy crap! My regular doc said to expect it to take at least a couple of months, and to be mentally prepared to NOT get all function fully restored. [Deleted expletive] me hard!
We were at a big Father's Day gig at one of my brother's homes yesterday, and the general consensus was that if they didn't know me so well, they would have never noticed. I've been blessed (if that's the right word for this instance) to have a pretty minor incidence of this.
As noted, the yoga/meditation is pretty trippy. On days where I do the whole routine, I sometimes have no pain whatsoever. It's always less persistent than if I don't do the yoga.
I'm hoping for the neurologist to give me a thumbs-up or -down on doing facial exercises. Some websites said to do them, others said it may over-tax the recovering nerves, and hinder their repair.
The biggest thing is learning to be patient. Definitely not my strong suit. In this situation, I don't get to vote, so I have to be patient! Could be worse, I guess.
Accept The Challenge
Most of us preppers "preach" about self-sufficiency. Put away food, equipment, PMs, guns, ammo, medical supplies, etc. Most of us also talk about "getting healthy" while we have the opportunity.
Perhaps this was my own personal wake-up call. If you think about it, without your health, you are necessarily dependent on others. You've got to go to the doctor to have this and that looked at. You've got to go to the dentist to fix a cavity or abscess. You've got to go to the cardiologist to have your ticker checked.
I mentioned before that this Bell's Palsy thing is the second time I've been admitted to the hospital - the other being my birth. I have been taking my generally good health for granted.
If you were to come down with some largely preventable, debilitating condition - stroke, heart attack - it won't matter how many buckets of beans you put away. You might as well double the amount, because someone is going to have to wipe your butt for you from now on, and they've got to eat, too.
Make your health your priority. Everything else is window dressing.
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