Sunday, March 20, 2016

Healthifying and not dying and whatever

A few weeks ago my father died. We weren't close, and we hadn't spoken in years, so I wasn't grief stricken - I was concerned about Noodles, who was close to him and was very upset, and my brothers, who had to organise everything as I don't live in the same state. But other than that, it was just that general 'Oh, that's a shame' feeling you get when someone you don't know very well dies.

It turns out he had heart disease and died from a heart attack in his sleep. No one knew he had heart disease. One of my brothers knew he 'took pills' but didn't know what for. We all knew he had high blood pressure - he had been taking blood pressure tablets for 20 years or so and he was a total stresshead. He didn't really take great care of himself - he was very sedentary - the only time he walked was around the supermarket. He wasn't super overweight but he was chubby, and his diet was stuff like white bread, margarine, the same two or three kinds of vegetables over and over, pasta sauce out of a jar, fish and chips once a week, etc.

So anyway, this has freaked me out big time. I have highish blood pressure. Mine is probably weight related as when I lose weight it goes down, but regardless, it's there and it's doing damage. I have the advantage over my dad as I walk everywhere and eat a lot more variety of whole food than he would have, but it still freaked me out to think I could be heading toward heart disease. So recently I've been doing some internal regrouping, with the help of a little light reading...

I haven't read all of those, by the way - I'm working my way through them. I don't have heart disease, so my goal is to not get it. I'm 47 and I'm in the zone where I'm close to menopause, when getting healthy becomes a hell of a lot harder. I've got maybe a two year window of opportunity to get to optimum health now, before I lose the disease protection of estrogen and periods.

The consensus among the non-kook health writers (and believe me, you have to sift through a hell of a lot of kooks) is that the Mediterranean diet is one of the best for a healthy heart, and there is promising research that a combination of this and the DASH diet (for people with high blood pressure) may also prevent dementia. Dementia is another terror of mine, because I have been getting more and more forgetful as I get older. Unfortunately, this research has not been fully documented yet so no one has as yet tied it all up in a nice, easy to read book for me. So at the moment, I'm putting this all together myself.

Anyway, I'm making a start with some baby steps. My first step was to start eating more oily, small mouth fish. I'm not a huge fan of salmon or trout - I don't hate it but I don't love it. And fish is so crazy expensive in Adelaide, which is bullshit because we are on the coast. But needs must, so at least twice a week (and I'm going to try to slot one more in next week), we've been having fish for dinner. It's not so bad now that I'm used to it, and Noodles found a really nice salmon recipe with asparagus and saffron and a creamy sauce so that takes the bleh out of it quite a lot.

The other thing I started yesterday was a two week gluten free experiment. I don't know that I buy into the whole 'gluten is the devil and giving it up cures everything' cult, but I figured it can't hurt to try and see if it does anything to help my a) joint pains and b) wheeziness and pollen allergies. If I don't feel some demonstrable change after two weeks, I'll go back to including it - no biggie. Besides, it can't hurt me to give up toast and massive bowls of pasta for a fortnight.

I've also been trying to remember to photograph my food so I can get a visual picture of what I am eating, how much, and whether there are enough colours in it  (i.e. am I eating enough fruit and veg). I set up a private instagram for the purpose but I keep forgetting to take pics, especially at work, so I'm thinking I will just delete and start again with that from today. Maybe set reminders on my phone - I don't know. Anyway, examples of what I've been eating -

Portobello mushrooms stuffed with ricotta, spring onion and a ton of wilted silverbeet. Yesterday's lunch.

Rainbow trout fillets (dipped in coconut flour and cooked in a little olive oil and organic butter) with baby potatoes smothered in Greek yoghurt and chopped basil, broccolini and asparagus. Last night's dinner.

Egg fried in a smidge of olive oil, mushrooms, asparagus and a slice of gluten free bread toasted. This morning's breakfast.

I decided to start writing about this for my own purpose, to keep track of what I'm doing and how it's going. I don't need a full lifestyle overhaul - I eat reasonably well (if too much), I don't drink soft drinks or juices really ever, I walk at least 10,000 steps most days just in my general getting about. I guess I'm just fine tuning. So this week it's testing the gluten free and bringing in more fish, in the coming weeks it will be strength exercises and learning to meditate properly. Whatever will help me live a long healthy life like my grandmother, my great grandmother and all my great aunts. I want to take after my mum's side of the family, where all the women lived to their 90s and a couple kicked over 100, and all had no sinister diseases and all their marbles intact. I don't want to take after my dad's side, where he died of a heart attack at 71 and his father the same in his late 40s/early 50s.


  1. You've got this, also your food looks yummers! :)

  2. And I didn't comment at ALL in the end! I like the look and idea of a Mediterranean diet - as long as there's sausages, I think the Gentlemens might come on board at least partly.

    1. You'd have to make your own though - shop sausages would come under the big no no of processed meat products.