It began with my husband’s heart disease. I had been watching my husband’s health deteriorate for many years. When he developed diabetes, I felt concerned but didn’t feel that there was much I could do about it. Wasn’t it all just a matter of genetics? His father had diabetes before him, and his sister had also developed diabetes. Surely it was beyond my control.
When our family doctor confronted me–saying that if I didn’t do something drastic to help my husband, he wouldn’t last for more than a few more years–I felt terrible. But, after all, what could I do? I was already choosing leaner cuts of meat to feed my family. What more could I do?
Within a year of receiving that urgent counsel from our family doctor, my husband suffered a cardiac event. He came home from work feeling as if he couldn’t catch his breath. I insisted that he call the doctor immediately, and set up an appointment as soon as possible. He called and they schedule him to come in the next morning. He went in for a full work-up the next day.
The doctor was concerned, but needed to see the results from some labs before making any decisions. Throughout the day my husband continued to feel the same shortness of breath, and a sensation of tightness in his chest. It was frightening, but since it wasn’t painful he wasn’t certain that it was really dangerous. Around dinnertime, the doctor’s office called. They told my husband that his blood test results showed that he was experiencing a heart attack. “Go to the hospital, now,” they advised.
We left right away, and checked him into the emergency ward. There the doctors assigned a cardiologist to his case. The cardiologist scheduled an angiogram for the following morning, and had my husband checked into a room in the cardiac wing. The angiogram showed that my husband’s cardiac arteries were badly compromised by heart disease. Most of the vessels were affected, but one vessel was ninety percent constricted. The cardiologist then performed a procedure to install a stint into my husband’s artery. The crisis was averted, but my fear lingered on.
Our family doctor’s words were proving to be prescient. As loath as I was to admit it, maybe I had better think more seriously about what I could do to help. I still believed that genetics was the primary cause of heart disease and diabetes, but that perhaps a strict diet would slow the progression of the disease. We had tried dieting in the past, so I thought I knew what we were in for. It was not going to be fun.
The problem was that the diets I had tried in the past were intended for weight loss, not for optimum health. The focus was on reducing caloric intake through some variation of smaller portions, emphasis on “leaner” meats like chicken and fish, and moderation in the consumption of carbohydrates: primarily the starchy grains and root vegetables as well as sweet fruits. These diets left us feeling hungry and deprived. I was prepared to have to push through in spite of these handicaps, regretting that I’d have to feel hungry for the rest of my life. I felt I was ready to endure whatever was necessary in order to extend my husband’s life.
In order to choose the best diet possible, I did a little research. I believed that doctors must know what was best for my husband’s health, so I searched on-line for the diet that doctors recommended the most. My husband’s doctor had sent him to a dietician who recommended the DASH diet, so I was already familiar with that one. I also knew about various weight loss diets like the Mediterranean Diet and Weight Watchers program. I just needed to know which of them came most highly recommended. It didn’t take long to find that most doctors recommend the DASH diet. So, we took off running with that. Little did I know how ignorant most doctors are about nutrition and the health effects of food.