Monthly Archives: July 2013

Awakening (FD +35)

Five weeks ago today I was spending my first day in hospital trying to come to terms with having just had a Heart Attack.  It seems like only yesterday, and a lifetime ago at the same time.

Lots of things have changed without needing to make an effort change them.  The cumulative effect of many small alterations have resulted in some big differences:  differences to what I do.  differences to how I do it.  I’m still the same person, although you might find it increasingly difficult to recognise me.

Is it sustainable?  Will I change back?

People say that over time I’ll forget what’s happened to me, what everyone has been through; I’m not convinced.  Apparently only a very small percentage of people who have experienced Heart “Events” actually make lasting, positive changes to their lifestyles.  Will I be one of them?

There are lots of reminders out there…  since I’ve been out of hospital the unfortunate deaths of James Gandolfini and, only yesterday, Mel Smith, have hit the headlines.  A few weeks on from Gandolfini’s death, it’s unfortunate to see that more lessons appear to have been learned (more correctly, reported) about Estate Planning than the cause of his death (which I suspect is more relevant than the vast majority of us!).

In a lot of respects I’m a novice at many of the new features of my life:  healthy eating, regular exercise, weight loss, relaxation, medication.  but I’m not making any new discoveries.  The things that I’m learning are obvious to many if not most people.  I guess I was aware of them myself to a certain degree, somewhere below the surface, buried deep enough not to influence my day to day actions.

Remind yourself:  Preventing Heart Disease

The single biggest “awakening” for me is what I eat and drink.  Given I’m trying to eat healthily (Healthy Heart) and also trying to lose some weight (Calorie Control), I’m very aware of what I’m eating now.  The scary thing was how unaware I was before.  I’m quickly starting to realise that anything that has been “prepared” (by others) is likely to have been “abused” in some way… addition of large quantities of Salt and Sugar.

A light, tasty snack!

There are so many examples of seemingly healthy or wholesome foods that are really not great for you, it’s unreal!  And that’s only looking at the “healthy” choices… a fraction of what’s available.

I know I’m late to the party.  I’m sure you were aware of the hazards lurking in our supermarket aisles, but there are plenty of people that aren’t… aren’t aware, don’t care or are hiding from reality (as I was).

Just another week… (FD +33)

So, the end of “just another week”… back to work and starting Cardiac Rehabilitation.  Fortunately both  events were tailored to the needs of a survivor of a recent Heart Attack… gentle introductions with lots of attentive people looking out for me.

I’m lucky enough to work with people who care enough to take my recent escapade into consideration.  I have been largely protected from any noise that arose during my recuperation, and much of my week was spent within the confines of a “stress free” protection zone.  A disproportionately high number of discussions ended with the words “…but you don’t need to worry about that.”

I was very much a part-timer this week – following the instructions of my various advisors (including trying to “listen to my body”).  As the days go by, I’m able to do more.  Go longer between rests.  Recover more quickly.  Slowly returning to some sort of “normality” to return.

Over time things will definitely return to normal…  I’ve already noticed myself “rushing” around, and getting unnecessarily frustrated when dealing with morons / imbeciles / idiots*.  The difference at the moment is that I’m more aware of these occurrences.

Ultimately, my health is my personal responsibility.  I need to learn how to deal with these situations in a reasonable fashion.  If my plan is to rely on people protecting me from morons / imbeciles / idiots* and the stresses of the world I’m going to have to live a very sheltered life!!!

* Delete as applicable.

Standing up and Sitting down (FD + 31)

We are encouraged not to “blur” at Cardiac Rehabilitation as it can result in over-exertion

It turns out that standing up and sitting down on a chair repeatedly over even a relatively short period of time can be tiring.

Yesterday turned out to be a an introduction and assessment day at Cardiac Rehabilitation.  A bit of an anti-climax to be honest, but not a disaster.  The “proper” sessions started this morning.

So… I discovered that walking on a treadmill is fine, cycling on an exercise bike is a breeze, cross-trainer (minus arms) is comfortable, but standing up and sitting down (poor man’s squats, I guess) hurt.  Not a scary, Cardiac Rehab, “somebody get a doctor” kind of hurt, but my legs clearly weren’t used to that kind of exertion.  They hurt then and ache now.

[Try it yourself.  Sit on a normal dining-type chair and stand upright, sit and stand, sit and stand.  Repeat continuously for 3 minutes.  If you struggle, perhaps you need to get some more exercise too!]

It was a different exercise experience for me.  I guess I’m starting from a different place.  I’m not just a little bit unfit.  I have had a Heart Attack.  I don’t really want another one.  So this needs to be about taking the exercise seriously, but not doing too much serious exercise:  Warm up.  Work out (moderate exertion).  Cool down.  And relax.

I now have a maximum Heart Rate.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had one before.  If I have, I’ve certainly never owned a device to monitor it.  I do now. I’ve got a shiny new watch that tells me everything I need to know (unfortunately only while exercising).  My magic number is 118! [220 minus 42 (age) minus 30 (drug factor) multiplied by 80% if you’re interested.]

I tend to keep my shirt on… it reduces stress all round!

I was the only person with a (personal) heart monitoring device (no-one commented, but I did get a few looks).  Everyone else relied on the kit provided – which involved a single measure mid-way through the exercise programme.  I guess there’s a risk that I take this a bit too seriously, but I don’t think it’s over the top to want to know if you’re approaching your maximum heart rate, is it? (I maxed out at 112 bpm, incidentally).

Anyway, 1 session and 715 calories down…
15 and lots more to go!

Top down and Bottom up

People lose weight in different ways;  Some lose it in fits and starts, getting seemingly random outputs from consistent inputs; Some struggle to lose any, no matter what they try;  While others only seem to need to think about going on a diet for the weight to fall away.  I’m sure these change over time too: “past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance”.

Someone else’s feet!

For me, it appears that I’m losing weight from the top down and the bottom up.  To date my “health kick” (this should be “lifestyle change”, but let’s take it one step at a time”) has not extended beyond thinking about what I put in my mouth and walking (up to 2 miles, twice a day).

I think these small changes have started to deliver some results:  my legs have definitely “shaped up” a bit as a result of the regular exercise, and while shaving off my facial hair last night I discovered evidence of a long forgotten jaw bone.

The upside of losing weight in your face is that it’s relatively easy to show external signs of progress.  The downside is that it’s easy to declare success too early, before the hard work has been done.  (Not this time!)

As a result, I was greeted on several occasions today (my first day back in the office) with:

“You look much healthier than you did before!”
“Yes,” I was tempted to respond, “but the last time you saw me I was a heart attack waiting to happen!”

So, independent verification that things are headed in the right direction!

Someone else’s body!

The next task is to move forward with the fitness regime…  I wouldn’t say I was particularly toned right now.  In fact, the combination of losing weight from the top down and bottom up, together with years of giving up diets too soon, has resulted in all the pies gathering around my midriff, in combination with my Umpa Lumpa feet (Always wear sunscreen) I’m really not an attractive sight!

Rehabilitation starts tomorrow.  I’m not exactly sure what to expect, but I’m really looking forward to it!

Back to School

I have never had 4 weeks off work.  I had an extended break when I became independent, but I’ve never returned to the same role after more than 3 weeks of away.

I’ve had 3 week vacations twice; once for our honeymoon and once for a family trip to St Lucia.  Both were fantastic breaks, much needed and thoroughly enjoyable.  Special times.  I know it sounds silly, but 3 weeks is so much more than 2 weeks, as far as holidays are concerned anyway (I would highly recommend it!).

4 weeks is a long time!

Can you remember what you were doing on 14th June?  No, neither can I!

To compound things, I hadn’t exactly planned to be off work.  I hadn’t wound anything down, handed anything over or prepared in any way.  I just didn’t turn up on the Monday.  Yes, there are extenuating circumstances, but life has to move on.

So, it’s back to school for me tomorrow;  my clothes are laid out, shoes polished,  pencils sharpened, lucky stress ball looked out (ironically in the shape of a heart!), bag packed.  Everyone’s a little bit on edge.  Ready to move on.  Uneasy about what the future holds.

I’m sure everything will be fine.  One way or another it’s going to be more than a little bit strange, for me and everyone else around me.  Another journey into the unknown.

Onwards and upwards!  Wish me luck!

Always wear sunscreen

While glorious, always welcome, and generally unexpected, the sun in Scotland isn’t renowned for packing much of a punch.

Having spent much of my recuperation period inside, Thursday was the first time I’d really been exposed to sun this summer.  As a result, I was keen to leave the beach on Thursday with “bit of colour”.  I wasn’t showing too much skin (I wore Shorts, T-Shirt and a baseball cap), but my limbs were left exposed to the elements.  I declined the offer of sunscreen – factor 50 really wasn’t going to do much to enhance my “tan”.

As hoped, I was starting to show signs of colour as we left the beach.  Colour which continued to evolve throughout the evening.  [I guess now’s a sensible time to point out to anyone who doesn’t know me, that I don’t generally tan very well.  At all, in fact.  Whereas the rest of my immediate family go a nice olive colour, I tend to go red and then back to white.  Two years in the Middle East left me slightly “off-white” at best.] 

During the evening my arms and legs started to get warm, then hot.  It is at this time that I made my mistake…  to relieve the increasing heat I reached into creams and potions in the bathroom for some soothing After Sun, and applied liberally.

All was good.  Relieved, I went to bed.

The following morning I awoke to a slightly strange colouration, particularly on my legs.  I assumed my heart medication may have altered the way my body reacts to sunlight.  Perhaps, I could finally produce melanin.  Perhaps I was tanned!  Slightly suspicious, I checked the After Sun (all seemed in order) before re-applying.

Umpa Lumpa

Before and after “Tan Maintaining” After Sun

The colouring continued to develop.  By Friday evening my feet wouldn’t have looked out of place on an Umpa Lumpa.

While the After Sun had been applied liberally, it had not been applied consistently.  The smudges and blotches are perhaps less appealing than the solid sections.

I guess the upside is that it did take the edge off the sunburn… the colour should last for weeks!  Delight!

What I now know, is that I should avoid any products that includes the words “Enhancer” or “Maintainer” in combination with “Tan”.  Apparently “maintenance” on me is the equivalent to a full-on artificial tan for others.  You live and learn!

Two lessons:  (1) Wear sunscreen and (2) Read the small print!

That’s why they call it fishing!

The Caribbean?  South of France?  North Africa?


No!  Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

We have beautiful beaches.  We also have fairly crappy weather.  The occasional cracking day brings people out in their droves.  Today there appeared to be a surprisingly large number of pre-school kids (and supervisors), a cross-section of society I don’t tend to rub shoulders with very often.

Visiting beaches in Scotland isn’t something I’ve done very regularly.  However, on Tuesday I made a move that might change this… buying a fishing rod!  It got it’s first outing that evening, feathering for mackerel in Inverbervie… without success!


Feathering for mackerel in Inverbervie

Today was the rod’s second outing… targeting flatfish.  To be honest, beyond 5 minutes research in the internet, I didn’t really know what I was doing.  Fortunately, every nursery school pupil on the beach appeared to be highly experienced, and very generous with their advice:

Expert #1:  “Throw it out further!”

Expert #2:  “You need to put it in the water!”

Expert #3:  “The fish were nibbling my toes while I was paddling.”
Paul:  “Can I borrow one of your toes to put on my hook please?”
Expert #3: 
(After a nervous pause)  “No.”

Unfortunately, despite this sound advice and offers of assistance, my rod must still look forward to it’s first catch.

Still, it was a good excuse to switch off and stare at the sea for a few hours while the girls turned into kids again, playing chicken with the (near Baltic) North Sea waves, collecting shells, burying each other in the sand, and generally larking around.

Apparently it’s going to be even nicer tomorrow.  Head to Scotland, and bring your buckets and spades! (or fishing rods)


An arty picture of driftwood and rocks