February 22, 2013 by mybattlebuddyfitness
Written by Melissa Eisner & Elisabeth Meany
I am a migraine sufferer. I have had them for at least 18 years, if not more. I started to get them when I was completing my Master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin, and I can remember lying on the floor of the kitchen one evening when I got one thinking my brain was trying to escape from my head. I continued to get them thru my Master’s, then they got worse when I moved to Chicago. I would say I ended up in the hospital every other month with an out of control migraine.
And then my sister, the ‘high priestess’ of the desert as I like to call her (she’s in R&D with an herbal pharmaceutical company) made a suggestion: listen to your body. Migraine sufferers tend to have food triggers. So she told me to cut caffeine, cheese, alcohol, citrus, and nuts out of my diet, for at least 6 weeks. Hardest 6 weeks of my life, but in the end, I was able to figure out that red wine, certain cheeses, and caffeine were causing my migraines. After cutting those out of my diet, my head started to feel much, much better.
A couple of years went by, and my migraines started to get worse again. When migraines change, they say you need to check in with your doctor. So off I went to talk to my neurologist, and she ordered an MRI “just for good measure”. I was supposed to get a call if there was something wrong, and that call never came, so I assumed I was fine. I showed up for my next appointment and in passing asked about my MRI. She grabbed my file and looked at the results. Minutes went by, and not a word. Finally, she said, “Well, that’s interesting, let’s go take a look at the images.” Interesting, something I didn’t want o hear my doctor say. We went into the other room and after flipping through a million slides, she points to one and says, “Here, you can see a tiny aneurysm.” I don’t remember much after that since the word aneurysm sent me into a bit of a shock.
I went home, talked to doctor friends, did some research, and calmed down. I wasn’t going to die today, or tomorrow, but it was a wake-up call. From my favorite movie The Shawshank Redemption, it was time to get busy living or get busy dying.
Background: bad things for an aneurysm include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high levels of stress, anything that would be wear and tear on your circulatory system. High blood pressure and high cholesterol both run in my family, and I had high blood pressure at the time.
I took a deep breath, and decided it was now or never. Time to shed those extra pounds (15 of them), time to get into shape (within a year of my diagnosis I ran my first 10 mile race, walked a pilgrim route across Spain for more than 250 miles), and time to take better care of myself (I became a vegan). It has all paid off, as I am healthier now than I was in my 20s, in better shape, and feeling great about life. I know that when the next health scare happens (it will, it always does), at least I have done everything I can to be as healthy as I can.
I have friends, smart friends, right now, that seem to be waiting for that doctor’s appointment where they receive the ‘bad news’ so there is a reason for them to make changes. People who know that their weight and their lifestyle might cause a heart attack, a stroke, type 2 diabetes. They go to their annual checkups with baited breath.
So, I ask you: Do you really need a health scare in order to make the necessary changes to your life?
Written by Elisabeth Meany
Admittedly, I have never had a major health scare of my own. I’ve had hiccups here and there—I contracted mono my senior year of high school, and I swear I was sick for two straight years. But other than that, I have been super lucky. I do suffer from anxiety and depression, which I finally realized I could make virtually disappear through a clean diet and daily exercise. Though I personally haven’t suffered from any major health issues, I have been surrounded by others who have. I come from the typical American family, meaning that I can’t count the number of relatives who are plagued by type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, anxiety, depression, strokes, the list goes on.
I grew up very close to my maternal grandparents and watched them suffer from every health issue known to man. It was so sad to watch their health continue to deteriorate year after year, as they subsisted on pills prescribed to them with promises that they would “feel like a new person.” They never did. They also never consistently exercised or ate a healthy, well-balanced diet. I watched my grandpa eat Vienna sausages from a can with a slice of white bread slathered in margarine and a large glass of milk for dinner, and then he wondered why he didn’t have the energy to take a walk around the block. I loved my grandfather SO VERY much, but he was pretty miserable most of the time as a direct result of his poor health.
Watching someone I cared for so much suffer like he did because of his own choices, led me to make my own choice. I resolved to NEVER, EVER end up like that. Plain and simple. I told myself that I would eat well and continue to exercise throughout my entire life. That way, as Melissa said, if I encounter a health scare, at least I can say that I did everything I can to be as healthy as I can. The world is so full of happiness and adventure, and it’s right at your fingertips. Why deny yourself these wonderful things? And for what? An extra serving of pizza and hamburger helper?
I realize that some people aren’t lucky enough to be able to control their health destiny. Plenty of very healthy people die from cancer, heart attacks, strokes, etc. every year…BUT you know what? I bet they immensely enjoyed their life before they left. My point is this: while eating clean and consistently exercising won’t GUARANTEE a long, sickness-free life, it will certainly ensure that you ENJOY every minute that you are given.
If you are one of those people who live on the cusp, THE TIME TO CHANGE IS NOW. Why wait for your doctor to tell you that you need pills to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol? Or that you need insulin to regulate your blood sugar? If you know you need to change, just make the choice and do it.
I leave you with this question one more time: Do you really need a health scare in order to make the necessary changes to your life?