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An Athletic Lifestyle, Health and the Heart…

July 2016
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It wasn’t until after my buddy, Mike called to give me the full story on his upcoming heart surgery that I had a quick thought about why I live like I do.

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First, while I refuse to buy into the silliness that is vegetarianism or worse, veganism, or any of the other diet fads, I didn’t always eat as well as I do today.  I’ve never shied away from fast food, and even embrace it during cycling season, but I’ve cut back considerably from my younger days.
I eat healthy, well balanced, good food today, and it’s not because it tastes good.  Sure, my homemade burgers are fantastic, even better than a Whopper (Burger King) and heads and shoulders better than anything McDonald’s or Wendy’s can turn out…  Fast food is an experience.  It’s no work eating.  Pull up to a drive-thru and they throw a hot, cooked meal at you within a minute or two.  I love easy.

Mike likes easy, and much more frequently that I do.

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Unfortunately, three of the arteries leading to his heart are currently pretty pissed about his enjoyment of “easy”.  Mike eats like $#!+.  He liked to think he got a free pass on crap food because he’s active.  Not so, and he’ll be acutely aware of this as he is trying to heal from his upcoming open heart surgery.

Too often, making the right choices is an abstract thing (in food and exercise).  One never sees the concrete result.  You simply don’t die (or one lives a little longer, however you want to look at it).  Oh, some people claim to feel better if they avoid certain foods but how one “feels” is highly subjective anyway.  It’s not often one can actually put their finger on a health problem and say, “Okay, I’ll eat better because my crappy diet caused “X”.

My buddy Mike can, and the rest of us who know him and care about him can.  His artery blockage is a direct result of diet.  He does everything else right.  Hasn’t had a drink in decades, doesn’t smoke, and exercises like his life depends on it.  If a crappy diet were okay, he should have shiny, healthy arteries.  Instead, he’s going under the knife to have new arteries put in.

There’s a flip-side to this though…

He’s been an athlete for decades, having qualified for Boston every year and regularly running sub-three hour marathons (if I remember correctly, his pace for the Crim 10 miler – our local standard for how fast one can run – was less than 60 minutes).  When he started having knee trouble he switched to cycling and has always been in the 20+ mph club.  My buddy’s heart found new ways to get blood to it.  It grew new branches to the arteries and while inefficient, because he was such an enthusiastic athlete, his body found a way to keep the effort up.  If not for his fitness, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what his likely fate would have been.

In the end, we all know what must be done, it’s just a matter of being willing to do it.  Eat healthy and lead an active life.  This won’t guarantee longevity, I wish it did.  What it will guarantee is that we get to live the healthiest, longest life possible.  If we’re fortunate enough to find happiness, especially in the fitness end of that equation, we’ll also get to enjoy it as well.

Ride hard my friends.

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13 Comments

  1. unironedman says:

    Okay, so I don’t really ‘like’ this, as such. But I would be willing to bet once those arteries have been given a good scrape that he’ll be back in the saddle again in no time. In fact, he’ll probably be faster than ever. Just to really annoy ya!

    • bgddyjim says:

      This thought has not escaped me… Particularly, Mike has been a lousy climber. As the heart rate typically spikes on a climb, I expect his performance on a hill is about to change and I’ll be in for a rude awakening… On the other hand, I’ll have to get stronger to keep up. While climbs won’t be as easy anymore, I’ll also end up stronger for keeping up. I’m choosing to look at this as a good thing.

  2. Dan says:

    The latest research shows that blocked arteries are more hereditary than food! Eat up. I think about that since both my grandfathers and my dad have had heart disease with plugged arteries. I have an elevated risk because of that. Hopefully I’ll die riding?

    • bgddyjim says:

      Typically, and this isn’t meant to be argumentative, hereditary factors usually dictate only a 10-30% increase in risk…

      Obesity runs in my mom’s side of the family but you’d never guess looking at my siblings and me (none of us are even overweight)… Same with alcoholism – my brother and I got it but everyone else is reasonable. Typically speaking, it’s what we do with our genes that matters.

      I haven’t seen the latest though, I’ll check it out. Thanks Dan.

  3. Gail says:

    I like what you wrote and how you wrote it. A lesson for me, as I tend to be much more judgey and sanctimonious. It’s a hard lesson learned, but you simply cannot outrun, out bike, or out exercise bad food choices.

    Your stat about hereditary factors is pretty much spot on. It’s about 25% among women and a little higher among men,

    I’m hoping that Mike makes a full recovery!

  4. conflictedhealth says:

    This is very motivational. I’m going to tell my husband. He works 8 hours a day on his feet running his business. He eats beyond #%^&. Forgets breakfast, pop every morning, 10 o’clock break donut with pop, and chips with he PB&J for lunch. He’s covered in muscle from all of the manual labor he does. I try to get a couple of veggies down him at dinner. The only reason he eats them is because our two-year-old is watching. Thank you for the post! My husband is going to hear all about Mike 🙂

    • bgddyjim says:

      The worst artery was 98% blocked.

      I’m all about eating good, fun food. But what you describe is scary. I used to be the same until I hit 32 years-old. I gained 45 pounds in a year. 😉

      • conflictedhealth says:

        Oh no, and you sound so athletic!

      • bgddyjim says:

        I was, then I wasn’t for a few years. Then I saw the error in my ways and went back to athletic again. 😉

      • conflictedhealth says:

        So I told my husband how his unhealthy habits could possibly affect his future… He said when he’s 40 we can talk again. JEEZ ha. Well there was more to it than that but he doesn’t have a problem with his diet 😦

      • bgddyjim says:

        Then let it lie. Be a good example and let him come around to you. You’ve planted the seed now let it grow.

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