Thursday, September 24, 2009

Heart Aches

Despite my best efforts my husband has awful dietary habits. Although I refuse to bring junk food into the house, he constantly buys himself snacks, like a bag of corn chips and jarred salsa, and then will eat it all in one sitting watching a foot-ball game.

For lunch my husband usually has a ham, salami or other cured meat on rye bread with pickles. If he goes out for lunch, it's not unusual for him to have a bacon cheeseburger. On the week-ends he likes to go to the local diner for breakfast and get eggs with both bacon and sausage and fries.

He refuses to eat fruit (unless its baked into a pie), and thinks nothing of ordering two meals for himself when we go out to eat.

And, my husband is the typical arm-chair athlete. He only works out (barely) once a week, and after that weekly work-out he goes to the local Jewish deli and gets himself either two hot-dogs with sour kraut, or two bagels with cream cheese and lox.

You'd think he'd weigh over 300 pounds. But he doesn't. My husband is 6 foot 4 inches and weighs less than 200 pounds. He is lucky in that he has the metabolism of a teen-age boy.

But he's also unlucky. My husband has hypertension, a heart condition, and was told three years ago that if he didn't watch his diet and exercise more, he could have a stroke or heart attack.

But was that enough to get him to change his habits??? No, he always thought that he's in great shape and doesn't need to reduce his salt intake, fat and cholesterol because he's thin.

This week he went to his cardiologist and was told that his heart condition has significantly worsened. I pestered him to give me permission to speak to his doctor. I got the permission and spoke with the cardiologist today.

To say that this poor man is frustrated by my husband's behavior is an understatement. I found out that my husband has been blowing off this professional's advise for years (such as refusing to get his cholesterol tested). I got the sense that the doctor is ready to just throw in the towel and bide his time until my husband finally does have a stroke or heart attack to say "I told you so."

Needless to say, I'm not content to sit back and wait for that to happen. I sprang into action by calling his parents. My father-in-law is a doctor, and understood the diagnosis, prognosis, and necessary lifestyle choices my husband has to make. He'll pester him from the professional angle.

My mother-in-law is a Jewish mother, so she'll pester him to the point that he'll probably make some changes just to get her off his back.

It's not the first time I had to resort to my in-laws. Years ago when a routine physical found that there might be heart issues, my husband refused to see the cardiologist. My in-laws got him to the cardiologist, and have made sure he returned regularly.

I do what I can at home. Despite his protests I make him eat fish and eat a vegetarian meal at least once a week. When I do make meat, I make a lot less of it, and I've switched to whole grain rice, pasta and breads.

It's what he eats when he's not in the house or brings into the house that's a problem.

But it goes to show, eating healthy is about more than just being thin. My husband is thin. But, he's probably more unhealthy than a lot of men with spare tires who do watch what they eat and exercise regularly.


  1. I had a heart attack 14 years ago and developed CHF about 4 years ago. My original cardiologist told me to follow Dean Ornish's program and I did, eventually going to a vegan diet. Felt okay, labs were okay, but I found it very difficult to stick with and my family would eat nothing I cooked.

    I figured there had to be something that would be healthy for me and appealing to my family, and I accidentally found something that I thought would work for all of us -- and it has.

    My second cardiologist told me he didn't care what I ate or how much salt I used in cooking or at the table -- as long as I avoided processed foods.

    I now eat meat once a day (usually chicken or fish, but sometimes red meat), use olive oil, butter, eggs, sometimes bacon or sausage and eat no reduced fat products with the exception of milk (just habit). With the exception of bread, I rarely eat whole grains because I don't like them.

    Result -- my cholesterol is 126 (I don't remember the fractions right now, but they're normal) and B/P is 94/50.

    I call my style of cooking and eating "mostly homemade". I aim for 70% (or more) fresh ingredients and 30% (or less) ready-made foods including bread, pasta and condiments. I think I'm at about 85/15.

    I think that one of these days the "experts" are going to say that they've been all wrong with their dietary advice and fat, including saturated fat, has never been the issue. It's processed foods.


  2. Thanks for the comments. I actually always cook all my dinners, from scratch, with little meat, lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and almost no processed foods (certainly nothing from a can or jar).

    My problem is when my husband goes out into the world. He's seems to be getting the message, however. He's already made some changes.

  3. Please tell your husband for me to get it together. As I school psychologist I hate doing grief counseling and he if continues someone will have to perform that horrible tasks.

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