A good friend of mine called me the other day and told me he had suffered a heart attack. You may say well, that’s life, sometimes bad shit happens. My buddy is 68 years old. I call him “old man” but as I have achieved double nickel status myself this doesn’t really seem old. If your 25, I’m sure 55 and 68 both seem decrepit. Let me give you a tip… Don’t Blink!
After the initial shock and explanation of the events leading up to hospital admittance, he relayed to me that he was going into surgery for a triple bypass. The doctors had tried to insert a stint but could not do so as one artery was 100% blocked and two others were 80% blocked. A bypass is a procedure that you probably have heard of, or you might know someone who has been through one. Maybe you aren’t aware what this entails or the seriousness of this operation. I know my father does, cause he has been through this.
In most cases, bypass surgery is open-chest surgery. During the surgery, your chest will be open and your heart exposed. The surgeon makes a large cut, or incision, in the middle or side of your chest. He will cut through your breastbone and spread apart your rib cage. (Read this as they cut you and crack open your chest)
The surgeon removes a healthy blood vessel—often from the leg—and attaches (grafts) it to the blocked artery. The new blood vessel bypasses the blocked artery to increase blood flow to the heart. You may need just one bypass graft, or you may need more. Some people have as many as two, three, or even four (double, triple, or quadruple bypass surgery). How many grafts you need depends on how many arteries are blocked and where.
When the surgery is complete, the doctor may use wire to put your rib cage back together and stitches to close the incision. (Wait – What? They wire you back together!) The surgery can take 3 to 6 hours. You will stay in the hospital at least 3 to 8 days after the surgery. It can take 4 to 6 weeks to recover at home.
Visiting my buddy in the hospital made me acutely aware that I am traveling down the same road. Terrible eating habits, not exercising enough, overweight. Some factors of poor health are hereditary. Yes blame your parents if you want. Still what we do now will surely affect our well-being in the future. Don’t believe me, watch the middle-aged folks around you and see how poor eating habits, smoking and excessive drinking are working out for them.
My friend did not smoke, was not fat, rarely drank and was not “old”. Somewhere his decisions about food and exercise ended up affecting his plumbing. I’m not trying to be all “Doctor OZ” on ya, but fair warning young pups. Keep thinking you’re invincible. You may tell yourself “I’ll worry about that shit when I’m old”. Go ahead live for today and the future be damned. Just a little advice from this old donkey, change some things and live a long and happy life. Lifestyle changes will reduce your risk of hardening of the arteries. Here’s what you can control:
- Quit smoking. This is the single most important change you can make to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. (“Well I don’t smoke so I’m fine… Wrong!”)
- Avoid fatty foods. Eat well-balanced meals that are low in fat and cholesterol. Include several daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Adding fish to your diet at least twice a week may be helpful. However, do not eat fried fish.
- Limit how much alcohol you drink. (I can see you rolling your eyes right now!)
- Get regular physical activity. Exercise with moderate intensity (e.g., brisk walking) 5 days a week for 30 minutes a day if you are at a healthy weight. For weight loss, exercise for 60 – 90 minutes a day.
This is not a doomsday post. I know some of you are thinking “and I could be hit by a bus”! BS, according to the Department of Transportation, very few people die as a result of being run over by a cross-country or intercity bus in the United States. That’s not how you are going to die. Hopefully most of us will die in our sleep at 90. I have experienced close calls and downright heartbreaking tragedy in my family. Some were easily explained medically, some were complete shocker’s. If you believe in the man, he will take you when he wants. Even if you don’t believe heathen, no sense in pressing the issue.
Enjoy life, but live to enjoy it, or you might live to regret it.