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Jim Blog

The Diet.

Diet is something that is very important for everybody, regardless of any health issues or none at all. Food, drink, the types of food we eat, the types of drink, how they are prepared and the amount consumed can all have a bearing on what constitutes a healthy diet for everyone of us. Some diets are recommended from time to time. Diets that usually make up a four-page pull-out in a tabloid newspaper. But they tend to be sweeping generalisations that assume all people are built similarly and have the same body chemistry. For some people such as us CHD patients, some of these diets would not be suitable, or may even be dangerous.

Everybody is of course different and I can only write about my own situation and experiences. For instance, I used to take a statin to control cholesterol so I had to avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice. It is the same story now with the blood thinner I take. Eliquis (Apixaban) appears to do an excellent job but again grapefruit and its juice is a no-no. Warfarin, which I took for a number of years, can be affected by certain levels in vitamin K. Cabbage, kale and broccoli are just a few sources of vitamin K. My International Normalised Ratio (INR) would be all over the place. It was hard to keep inside the parameters and the ever-regular blood tests were horrible. Plenty of other food and drinks can affect the INR and it is important to be wary of what you eat and drink if you do take Warfarin.

As I now have Chronic Heart Failure (CHF), it is crucial that I stick to a fairly strict diet. I have never smoked that was never an issue. I did however enjoy a drink. This was never a good idea as it puts a lot of strain on the heart as well as other organs, most notably the liver. So, I had to give up alcohol. Something which was much easier than I thought it would be thankfully. A bonus from giving up alcohol, apart from the money saved, is that I lost a good bit of weight. Excessive weight is another thing that can make CHF worse. I tend to drink coffee. I LOVE coffee. It would be really hard for me to give up coffee, but too much can give me palpitations. It’s hard to get a nice decaf. coffee in a café in Dublin though. Any recommendations ? (Answers on a postcard, please !). Even if I find a nice place for coffee I still must watch the amount I drink. Due to the CHF, I am limited to 1.5 litres of fluid a day. This includes soups, stews, even plain water.

Then there is salt. Where possible, it is vital that I avoid salt at all times. This is practically impossible. The upper limit for intake for the majority of people is about 6 grms a day. For me it is 1.5 grms. It seems that salt is in everything. Obviously some foods are simply off the menu such as bacon, ham, sausages, other processed meats such as salami and chorizo and most cheeses, especially hard cheeses. Crisps, nuts and other snacks also tend to be high in salt. Pretty much anything that is processed. Bizarrely there are some foods that you would never think would have salt but they do. Bread, breakfast cereals, condiments such as mayonnaise and ketchup. Even milk has a small amount of salt in it.

Luckily I cook and enjoy cooking for myself most days. This means plenty of fresh fish, meat and vegetables. Keeping it healthy if only by default. I do however take one day off a week from the diet. I normally to eat my own weight in Chinese food. I’m quite a stickler for this one-day rule because I tend now to get a headache the next day if I have too much salt. Must have my weekly treat though. A little of what you like and all that.     There’s about 7.5 billion of us in the world and we all need a diet unique to us. Thing to consider are height, weight, amount of physical activity, body chemistry and metabolism as well as general health and well-being. What you have read is unique to me. Now…where’s the number for my local take-away ?

Be Kind To Yourself.

The articles contained in Jim Blog are written by Jim O’Brien, a 45 year-old adult with CHD. The opinions and views he provides reflect a real life account of his experiences and honest commentary on his life-long journey with CHD. Jim is a valued member of Heart Children and writes voluntarily for us. His views do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and values of Heart Children but we are delighted that he is contributing to a greater knowledge and understanding of what it is to live with congenital heart disease.




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