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I Live a Better Life Because of My Heart Attack
I can’t say I am glad it happened, but it did change everything
I’m not that old. I look much younger except for the bags under my eyes. When I tell people I had a heart attack, I can see them wonder how a guy like me could have heart trouble.
I think I look younger because I am married to a younger woman. They say when you are married long enough, you start to look like each other. In our case, she looks older (in a good way), and I look younger. It’s been 11 years since we married, so it’s long enough for us to start morphing into each other.
But back to the point.
I don’t look like I should be having heart issues. Yeah, I am a little overweight and that may be the only thing that clues people in that I have lived my life abusing my body. I’ve spent so much time trying to solve my mental health issues that my body has taken a beating.
Up until I was 35, I was thin, mostly because I smoked two packs a day and skipped meals. But as my mental illness got worse, I started eating and drinking more — mostly foods and beverages that were terrible for my health like fast food and soft drinks.
For the next 15 or so years, I spent on a yo-yo with my weight and destroyed whatever was left of the healthier lifestyle I had as a younger man. Not watching what I put into my body contributed to my arteries being clogged — genetics and my Scandinavian heritage did the rest.
It wasn’t until my heart attack earlier this year that I felt the wrath of all the damage I had done. Up until then I walked daily and rode my bicycle. I was not athletic, but I got around without any trouble.
But I should have known what I was doing because my body gave me signs that it didn’t like the foods I was eating. I had terrible acid reflux, and everything I ate hurt my stomach and gave me diarrhea. I guess I thought it was just my IBS or the leaky gut, but it was much more than that.
I should have paid attention because it would have saved me a heart attack and angioplasty. It would have saved all the money I spent on hospital bills because I had no health insurance. It would have saved the pain of almost dying because I abused my body so much.
But I had a heart attack, a massive one. What happened to me was called spontaneous coronary artery dissection or SCAD. According to the Mayo Clinic:
“Spontaneous coronary artery dissection — sometimes referred to as SCAD — is an emergency condition that occurs when a tear forms in a blood vessel in the heart. SCAD can slow or block blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack, heart rhythm problems (arrythmias) or sudden death.”
I had a huge tear in the artery that goes to my heart because it had clogged and torn open. Thankfully, I had the best doctor in the Philippines, and he was able to piece the two parts together with a stent.
The scary thing is this paragraph, also by the Mayo Clinic:
“SCAD can happen more than once, despite successful treatment, either soon after the first episode or years later. People who have SCAD can also have a higher risk of other heart problems, such as heart failure due to the damage to the heart muscle from heart attacks.”
You might guess, because of what happened, I had to make some big changes so this doesn’t happen again.
The doctor said I had to completely change my life because along with the heart problems, I had high blood pressure and diabetes. I was on a quick path to death that no amount of surgery could fix if I didn’t change my life.
The first thing to change was my diet. Now, I admit that I have cheated a few times since the heart attack, but I have mostly been good about cutting back both how much I ate and what I ate. I had to cut out the sugar, and stop eating so many foods that contributed to my cholesterol.
No sugar and cutting out the bad fats and processed food was the name of the game, and when I started, I never looked back. Since the attack, I have lost 40 pounds, and while my weight loss has stalled due to my portion sizes, I am still eating healthy. Yes, you can eat healthily and still not lose weight. It is all about calories in, calories out.
I feel great about the progress I have made.
I have changed my diet and have been taking the medication the doctor prescribed, so I haven’t had any further trouble. The diet and medication will ensure that I don’t have any further heart attacks I hope, but it really is kind of a wait-and-see thing.
The thing is, I know I am doing all I can to ensure I don’t die an early death as far as it relates to my diet, but I wanted to take it even further and help more by changing how much stress I put on myself.
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If you look at the articles I wrote and the videos I made from the time before my heart attack, you will see that I was enamored by the hustle. I idolized Gary Vee. If he could put every ounce of his effort into work and is such a big success, I felt I could do it too.
Don’t let anyone tell you that being a creator isn’t a hustle because I treated it like one. I lived, breathed, ate, and slept content creation. Making money was the only goal I had and everything I did was geared toward being a success in the future.
I rarely slept and put an enormous amount of pressure on myself.
My whole life was geared towards being a success, and the funny thing was, I was still prescribed to the version of success that everyone else had. Money, fame, a big house, and fancy cars, I wanted it all and I didn’t care what it took to get there. I even sacrificed time with my family so I could hustle.
Well, after my heart attack, one thing I realized is that I had to discontinue as much of the stress as I could.
The first thing I had to change was what I thought success was. It turns out that once you take money and fame out of the picture, there is little other reason to spend so much time hustling and stressing out.
I found out that money and fame weren’t what I wanted, the quest for either was not bringing me happiness, and there was no reason I should be spending every waking moment in the search for them.
What did make me happy were just a few things. I realize all I needed was the love of my family. I wanted to be spending time with them instead of killing myself for the hustle.
I also figured out that writing for the pleasure of it made me happy as well. I spent so much time writing for money that I lost all joy in it. I still write for money, but it is no longer my focus. I now write because I have something to say, and it makes me happy to sit at my laptop and put my words on the page.
It fills me with life and brings a smile to my face.
I realized I needed to find a way to make a living that didn’t involve killing myself by hustling. I needed time to sleep, and I still needed time to take care of my family.
I still had many responsibilities, but I couldn’t be stressing about them any longer.
I had to make a living without killing myself. I did this by focusing my working time on a few very simple things that make me money over and over.
I focus on writing, both on Medium and my own blogs, and I have started consulting and coaching, which I found out is a joy to do. I just started, but I can see that it is going to turn into something I do full-time and continue to get better at as I get more experience.
I have taken the experience and expertise that I have gathered over the years and started using them in my favor. Instead of the constant hustle to learn more and do more, I focus on a few things that fulfill me and make enough money to feed my family.
Instead of stressing myself out to be a financial success or even be rich one day, I focus on the things that make me happy and forget the rest. I figured out I don’t need a big house and fancy cars, iPhones, and flatscreens.
I need a few things to make me happy.
Along the way somewhere, I forgot that my life was much more fulfilling when I adopted a minimalistic approach. If I have a few things that are useful and forget the hoarding of stuff that only adds to the stress, I can be happy.
I am happy with less. I am happy if I can spend more time with the people I love and I am happy when I can do work that fills me with joy.
All the rest is just fluff and garbage, and the hustle to get more is a worthless use of my time.
So yes, my life has improved since my heart attack. I wouldn’t say that I am glad it happened, but I will say the changes were a long time coming. I still have a long way to go. I still work too much. I still don’t focus 100% on the things that make me happy, but I am working on it and that is enough for me.
I know one day I will get to a place where I am satisfied and fulfilled with my life, and I can live healthily and bask in the love of my family and friends.
I am finally on the right road.
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