Monday, February 13, 2012

Hearty Matters

I wasn't sure I wanted to write about this subject when I started this blog.  One needs to be careful about not trumpeting Paleo/Primal as a panacea for all that ails us.  It is not.   However, with St. Valentine's Day here, it got me to reflecting about my heart again.  Sooo, I've decided I'm just going to put it out there anyway.

This probably isn't headed where you're thinking by the way ... it's really about my physical heart.

There's some history of heart disease in my family.  My Grandads ticker gave out on him a couple of years ago, I believe he was 82 or 83.  And my Father had a fatal heart attack at the ripe old age of 48.  I, myself, was diagnosed with an abnormal heartbeat when I was a kid - by a dentist of all people.  Nothing serious mind you, just not a constant metronome like tick.  Kinda all over the place really.  Consequently, I've always paid close attention as to how my heart feels.

In my younger days I thought I was giving myself a leg up by doing plenty of cardio and eating 'healthy'.  Lots of miles and whole grains to make my heart nice and strong you know!  And I was quite good at that lifestyle too.  I had some really good race results, I was lean, and by everybody's definition, very, very fit.  I also ate tons of food, which I spaced out every couple of hours ... like a hungry baby I suppose.  I was a Conventional Wisdom pin up guy.   I also believed I was the antithesis of my Old Man and that I was doing all I could to keep my heart in tip top shape.

Everything was running along smoothly until several years ago when I noticed that my heart wasn't 'feeling' so great.  It would occasionally hurt.   I can't come up with a better word for it unfortunately.  It wasn't a 'oh my gosh I need to go to the hospital right now' kind of hurt.  Not usually anyway.  More of a stabbing, hello here I am sensation (it didn't occur during exercise by the way).  But with my family history, I certainly took notice.  What's more, it started to happen when I slept on my left side.  As in it hurt then ... it felt heavy.  It would actually wake me up if I rolled over onto that side in the middle of the night.  Since I was almost always on my right side though, it wasn't a big deal as far as my sleeping was concerned, but it just didn't seem normal.  It wasn't normal.

Fate intervened and soon enough I came across the Paleosphere and information pointing to the reduction of chronic cardio for healthier living.  The part about not going overboard with long, hard, training and racing really resonated with me.  Who would've ever though it could be better for your heart if you didn't try to pound it into the ground 20 hours a week.  Sounds silly looking back now, but pounding away at it was exactly what I was doing.  I'm not saying getting your heart rate up every now again is a bad thing, but it can no doubt be overdone.  In addition, my large consumption of grains, ice cream, yogurt covered almonds, honey, dates (and on and on) wasn't likely helping the situation.

Okay, fast forward to the present day where you already know that I live a Primal lifestyle.  Here's the good news:  No more does my heart hurt.  At all.  Ever.  Even at night on my left side.  Better still, I have a normal heartbeat.  You can play scales on a piano to the steady rhythm of my ticker.  Cool, no?

I'll never be certain as to why my heart hurt and how serious it might have been.  I also cannot be certain that chronic cardio and grain carbs had anything to do with the situation.  Or that Primal Living was the solution.  It makes sense, but it's not something that is provable.  Hence my hesitation to ever say to anybody that living this lifestyle has 'saved my heart'.  Maybe it has, maybe it hasn't.  Given my family history though, I feel like right now I'm doing the best I can for my body as a whole.  But then again, that's what I thought when I was younger too!

Anyway, the important thing is that I feel great and my heart feels great.  Can't argue with that.

Happy St. Valentine's Day

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