As we Boomers age, more of our physical body slows down – or breaks down all together. Sometimes, we get a jolt of reality that we’re no longer 20-somethings that are invincible to all ailments and disease.
I had one such jolt.
Back in 2011, I had the scare of my life. I came down with a “bout” of Bell’s Palsy. It’s an affliction which generally makes one side of your face not work. Little or no muscle control on one side of your face.
I woke up in the morning, made a cup of coffee, and proceeded to drool it all over my chest. What the hell?! I tried again. Same result. I went into the bathroom and looked into the mirror and saw the whole left side of my face was lifeless. Couldn’t get so much as a twitch.
When it happened, I knew I had had a stroke. Life as I knew it was going to change forever.
Well, I got lucky. Not only wasn’t it a stroke, it was an affliction that – in most instances – goes away as mysteriously as it arrived. In 3 weeks, my face was working like it had before!
As a result of this incident, I came to the conclusion that I want nothing to do with a real stroke (hey, there’s a shocker!). Especially for a “Type A” personality like me, a stroke would be perhaps the worst possible affliction to get (short of death).
I cannot overstate the gripping fear I felt when my brain told my face to do something, and my face didn’t respond. A swift kick to the, uhm, gut.
So, I made some changes to my lifestyle. It’s really nothing dramatic, but more of a conscious effort to add a little bit of this, and remove a little bit of that. Just a bit of preventative health care to keep me alive, happy and independent for as long as possible.
Strokes are caused by your blood clumping up in your veins and a big wad-o-clot hits your brain, causing that portion to die. Or, they’re caused by a blood vessel in your brain “blowing” out, killing a portion of your brain.
That means you want to have relatively thin blood, and you want to have lower blood pressure so you’re not pumping so hard into your veins, causing a rupture (high blood pressure is called, hypertension).
I also wanted this to be as pill-free as possible. I had no desire to become a walking pharmacy. I wanted to change my habits, not increase my intake of store-bought wonder pills.
And of course, as a hard-core prepper, I wanted to be self-sufficient. I assume all medication becomes unavailable, and I will need to fend for myself. It makes no sense to become dependent upon pills when natural remedies are available.
Foods (where specific foods are listed) are foods I like. There are many other foods that may fit a category, but I just don’t like them. Sweet potatoes are on the “high potassium” list, for instance. I won’t eat them unless every other good food has vanished from the face of the earth!
Blood thinning foods: peppers, garlic, ginger, dill, oregano, dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, cherries), Vitamin B6 foods (legumes and whole grains).
This has entailed really only two major changes – peppers and more dried fruit. I’ve started eating a lot more jalapenos and much more cayenne. I’m already a garlic freak and really like dill and oregano. No big stretch here.
Hypertension foods: dairy/calcium (milk, cheese, yogurt), high potassium foods (dried apricots, bananas, beans, greens, clams, pork, yogurt, potatoes with skin)
This was no stretch at all. I eat a cup of yogurt almost every morning, and usually have a banana or raisins each day. My most consumed meat is pork, and any excuse to add more clams to my diet is very welcome. As with the blood thinning, I will just added more dried fruits and should be good to go.
Yoga, Meditation and Exercise
This has been the most difficult for me, but I’ve already seen great benefits. I simply make it a priority each and every day.
I do a couple of simple yoga exercises (sunrise salute is always in the mix) for about 10 minutes. The meditation is simply sitting cross-legged and doing a focused breathing exercise (100 slow, deep breaths).
I occasionally get this fairly sharp, but short-lived pain in my left ear/jaw/neck region as a result of the Bell’s Palsy. It kind of “radiates” – like when you turn a light on slowly with a dimmer switch – then goes away. Without exception, when I’ve done this yoga stuff, I have a much lowered (or eliminated) pain in by ear/neck/jaw on my affected side. It’s really quite cool.
I already have a regular weight lifting regime that I follow. My biggest issue is getting enough of a cardio workout. We’ve got an elliptical walker in the house – which I hate – and I a bike – which I love. It’s all about making the time to work them into my day. I need to make this a much bigger priority.
B & C complex vitamin supplements – This is my one pharmacology nod. The B complex helps with the blood thinning and also works to protect the myelin sheath (the protective covering around your nerves). 500mg per day of vitamin C is good for hypertension.
Most of us preppers “preach” about self-sufficiency. Put away food, equipment, precious metals, guns, ammo, medical supplies, etc. Most of us also talk about “getting healthy” while we have the opportunity.
Perhaps this was my own personal wake-up call. If you think about it, without your health, you are necessarily dependent on others. Your independence – your reason for being – is snatched away. You’ve got to go to the doctor to have this and that looked at. You’ve got to go to the dentist to fix a cavity or abscess. You’ve got to go to the cardiologist to have your ticker checked.
This Bell’s Palsy thing was only the second time I’ve been admitted to the hospital – the other being my birth. I had been taking my generally good health for granted.
If you were to come down with some largely preventable, debilitating condition – stroke, heart attack – it won’t matter how many buckets of beans, rounds of ammo or bars of gold you put away. You might as well double the amount, because someone is going to have to wipe your butt for you from now on, and they’ve got to eat, too.
Make your health your priority. Everything else is window dressing.