Don't Pass the Chips -- or the Snow Shovel
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
For the first month or so after my heart attack (at age 38, no family history, no obvious risk factors apart from being a man), I left the light on at night and cried myself to sleep. Having been startled by my own mortality -- the inevitability of it, the unfairness of it -- I was certain I was going to kick it at any moment. Never had the sound of my own heartbeat been so simultaneously reassuring and horrifying.
But the things I learned in rehab (not that kind of rehab) convinced me I just might have a say in how long I'd be sticking around. The formula was simple: Eat better, exercise more and take my medication.
I started with the zeal of the converted, doing Dr. Dean Ornish's ascetic low-fat diet. That lasted a few months. Now I just watch what I eat and try not to pig out. Ironically, I was on an exercise bike at the YMCA when I had my heart attack, but now I get at least 30 minutes of exercise -- on a treadmill, a rowing machine or my bicycle -- every day. I lost 20 pounds after my coronary, and while I don't like that I've gained 10 of them back, I do think I am "healthier" than I was before I was sucker-punched by my left anterior descending artery.
Oh, and I never shovel snow anymore. I think I could, actually, but I don't want to be one of those details stuck at the end of a Metro weather story. Death, I've decided, has a twisted sense of humor.
Metro columnist John Kelly had a heart attack on July 17, 2001. He's on sabbatical at Oxford University and blogging athttp:/