Pride...It Could Kill You
I remember this day like it was yesterday. Several years ago I was in a meeting with some of my colleagues at a restaurant. I noticed one of my co-workers, Hector, got up and was gone for an extended period of time. He sent a text message on my phone that I fortunately looked at that said, “In the bathroom not feeling well.”
I got up to check on him and I found him bent over sweating profusely while desperately grabbing his chest. The first thing he said is, “I am having some bad heartburn. I must have ate something that didn’t agree with me.” A typical guy response in complete denial.
I took one look at him and knew immediately he was having a heart attack. I called 911 and fortunately the paramedics were there in a few minutes.
Here is Hector’s Story in His Words
“I had just returned to work after a relaxing Thanksgiving holiday. I remember that the family enjoyed several big dinners together in which we didn’t withhold any of the traditional foods. In addition to a 23 pound turkey, we had plenty of gravy, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes, vegetables of every color and baskets of bread. The desserts were everywhere from homemade chocolate chip cookies to pumpkin pie topped off with rich whipped cream. We over ate for a couple of weeks straight but I justified it all by telling myself that I would work it off through plenty of hard core exercise at the local gym.
My weight has hovered for the past three years between 183 to 190 pounds. I visited the gym about 3 maybe four times a week and did plenty of biking and yard work to add to my physical activity. But, I was on the infamous see-food diet or in other words I would eat everything I could see. I work with Troy and had several light hearted conversations with him around dieting. I actually dismissed most of what he said as I thought I could eat as much as I wanted as long as I stayed physically active. Secretly, I knew that I was addicted to sugar or any food that would give me a quick sugar fix especially cookies and chocolate. I had a physical done a couple of years before in which the results showed that my cholesterol was very high and I was about 25–30 pounds overweight. This was probably the third time I had known from reports that I should make some important changes but I would always go out and lose 5 pounds but never changed my diet.
So, the week after Thanksgiving I had a heart attack at a Panera Bread. Troy was with me and he actually helped save my life by calling 911 and telling the operator that I thought I might be having a heart attack. I went through an emergency heart catheterization and balloon angioplasty. The results showed a completely blocked left anterior descending artery. The doctors told me that I was “lucky” and that the speed of the procedure saved my life. They inserted two stents to keep the artery open and told me I needed to get my cholesterol under control.
Troy hung out with me and returned the next day before I was discharged. We sat in the lobby and agreed that I needed to make a lifestyle change not just go on a diet. So with his help and encouragement, I stopped eating red meat, bread, pasta, any sugary foods, and sodas and limited my dairy to skim milk. I replaced this with plenty of vegetables, fish, lean chicken and whole grain cereals along with Greek yogurt and plenty of water. I watched the pounds come off and lost 17 pounds over a two month period and almost 35 pounds total. I now weigh about 156 pounds. I cut my cholesterol in half, lost 5 inches on my waist and had to buy all new clothes. One big lesson learned was that without proper eating habits all the exercise in the world will not do you any good. I also learned to read food labels and limit fats and carbs. A major change in my life is that I no longer crave sugars and avoid all the “comfort foods”.
Spiritually, I know I am more at peace and handle stress better. I have always trusted that God took care of me but I know now that God wants me to do my part and take care of the only body I will ever have. Thanks to Troy for steady advice and counsel throughout this journey.”
Pride Is the Biggest Obstacle for Men
How many of us are like Hector? We deny that there are any problems in our lives. We let things get so bad that we come close to death physically, emotionally or spiritually before we make any changes and unfortunately many men don’t get a second chance.
Hector is lucky because he got a second chance. A complete blockage of the left anterior descending artery is called the widow maker for a reason. Fortunately Hector’s wife isn’t a widow.
I believe pride is the single biggest obstacle for men to reach out for help.
We see it as a sign of weakness when we reach out for help or feel the need to go the doctor.
We see ourselves as invincible. We get caught up in thinking we can handle anything and are bulletproof.
That kind of pride is what can get us killed.
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, killing 347,879 men in 2017-that’s about 1 in every 4 male deaths.
If that’s not a shocking statistic I don’t know what is.
A big part of the pride thing is men don’t want to go to the doctor. A survey done by the Cleveland Clinic showed that 72% of the male respondents said they would rather be doing household chores, like cleaning toilets, than going to the doctor. So we would rather clean up pee than potentially save our lives by going to have a medical check-up. How messed up is that thinking?
I am a huge believer in having blood work done annually. Preventative medicine is where it’s at. The thought of having my chest cracked open scares me a lot more than going to the doctor once a year.
We think if we stay naïve to what is actually going on than we won’t have to deal with the truth. The truth is that heart attacks and cardiovascular disease is preventable through good nutrition, exercise and stress management.
Determine Your Cardiovascular Risk
There are several ways to determine your cardiovascular risk. Of course I recommend talking to your doctor about what tests are right for you. This isn’t a substitute for medical advice, but in my experience there are two blood tests that should be on the top of your list to assess your cardiovascular risk. These aren’t the only two, but it’s a good place to start.
Triglyceride to HDL ratio
Your triglyceride to HDL ratio is calculated on a fasting lipid profile. To get the ratio simply take your triglyceride number and divide by the HDL. The closer to one the better.
Low TG:HDL is desirable.
High TG:HDL A ratio greater than 3 indicates a significant risk of heart attack and stroke.
Here are my results from a test I took recently. My triglycerides were at 74mg/dL. My HDL was at 77mg/dL. That puts my TG/HDL ratio at .96 which puts me at a very low risk for cardiovascular disease.
Here is a link to get this test done through LetsGetChecked: Cholesterol Test Enter the code BB20 for a 20% off discount
Excessive inflammation is common in heart disease. It can be a sign that there is declining heart health. One of the best tests that indicates complete-body inflammation is a protein that circulates in our blood called C-reactive protein. Levels of CRP go up and down in response to increases and decreases in inflammation.
According to the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a CRP concentration of:
· Below 1.0 mg/L indicates low risk for heart problems
· Between 1.0 to 3.0 mg/L is an average risk for heart problems
· Above 3.0 mg/L is high risk for heart problems
My personal CRP levels are at .2 mg/L. I am at very low risk for heart problems.
Here is a link to get this test done through LetsGetChecked:
C-Reactive Protein Test Enter the code BB20 for a 20% discount
These are two simple blood tests that can be done as a good indicator to what your cardiovascular disease risk is.
Without testing you won’t know and remaining naïve about your current heart health isn’t the answer. Just because you don’t measure it doesn’t mean there aren’t any serious underlying issues.
Ok, so you are stubborn and don’t want to go to the doctor. I get it, I can be the same way.
That’s why I use LetsGetChecked personally.
Their mission is to make professional health testing easily accessible and ensure that no individual ever puts off a test due to not wanting to visit a healthcare provider.
LetsGetChecked laboratories are CLIA approved and CAP-accredited, which are the highest ranking levels of accreditation.
LetsGetChecked lets you avoid uncomfortable office visits by providing you with access to home testing and professional, medical consultations without ever having to leave your home. It’s never been this simple to get tested!
I don’t want pride to ever get in the way of my own personal health or anything for that matter, but the male ego is real.
I want to be as healthy as possible so I can do the work that I am created to do. We owe it to ourselves, our family and our community to know our numbers and then do something about it like Hector did.
Pride, it can kill us if we let it. We can also choose another possibility for ourselves. We can choose to transform our lives physically, mentally and spiritually so we can live a life of purpose, feeling fully alive.
Troy Ismir, MS
Founder and Creator of Barbells & Brothers