Trigger warning: mentions of physical symptoms and death
This is about my dad’s journey from a sedentary lifestyle that almost took his life to an active. After eight years of wobbling health, he is transforming himself now.
He is 6-feet tall and had developed a hefty physique, with a habit for heavy eating and an extremely active lifestyle from his youth.
He always believed that eating heavily is the key to staying healthy and did not reduce his food intake with advancing age. To add to this, we moved from our ancestral house where he was very active, to a sedentary lifestyle in our new house.
He developed gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) induced heartburns, which culminated in a cardiac arrest in 2013. Though he recovered, his health didn’t go back to how it used to be. To top it off, he developed additional ailments.
He was advised to follow a salt restricted diet, but he misconstrued it as a ban on salt; and I started observing radical changes in his behavior. Turned out his sodium level was decreasing rapidly and in another couple of days, he may have ended up in a coma.
He had also developed a swelling on the back side of his palms and feet. Cardiac conditions can result in decreased flow of blood to the kidneys and the brain might signal the kidneys to start retaining water.
Because of the false alarm, water starts getting accumulated first on the hands and then the feet, resulting in the medical condition called edema.
It was then that I checked dad’s medicines thoroughly and found out that the medicine for edema, called diuretics, which forces the excess water out of the body through urine, was never prescribed to him.
If left untreated, water will start getting accumulated in the lungs leading to the condition known as pulmonary edema, which would have forced dad to undergo a bypass surgery.
The cardiologist never even referred dad to a nephrologist, to get his kidneys checked. To top this off, dad had to visit him once every fortnight and he kept asking me when we we were doing dad’s bypass surgery. I understood that his sole objective was to make money by forcing the surgery on dad.
I immediately consulted another cardiologist. He referred dad to a nephrologist and then, dad was immediately put on a course of diuretics and the swelling went off.
Now, this cardiologist, whose father is well known in the city as the poor man’s doctor, asked dad to stop taking some of the tablets prescribed by the previous cardiologist.
He and told dad only to visit him if he develops any further issues. Patients are the only source of income for every doctor so how many doctors would tell their patients not to visit them unless it is absolutely necessary?
Though we didn’t know at that time, dad’s younger brother had similar gastric issues and he underwent angioplasty after he developed cardiac issues, but it did not solve his gastric issues. He lost trust in the doctors, stopped taking medicines. Eventually, water entered his lungs.
He refused to opt for a bypass surgery, suffered a stroke and passed away at the relatively young age of 66 years.
Dad’s dream of setting up a restaurant never materialised, but the emergence of online food delivery partners helped him set up a home based cloud kitchen in late 2019.
Another cardiac arrest, though of a much smaller scale, hit him again in 2020. Doctors kept advising him to walk on flat surfaces, but where would he find flat surfaces other than at home?
He couldn’t go out of the house anymore. I finally realised that medication and care alone was not going to help him.
He had to become physically stronger again to handle the heartburns, which in turn will make him mentally stronger. So, I told him that if he wanted to be ambitious at this stage of life and run a business, he will have to prioritise his health first.
I persuaded him to join a gym for cardiovascular exercises.
But, making him invest himself in it was important, so I made him buy walking shoes. He couldn’t even walk for a minute when he started on the treadmill, but he slowly started picking up and started working out on the air glider.
When I coaxed him and embarked on this journey seven months ago, little did I know it was probably going to become the most important project of my life.
Dad didn’t have any hope of regaining his health so I gave him a milestone, kicking out the tablets he has been on for the past eight years.
He was taking four tablets, two for blood pressure, a blood thinner and one for cholesterol. I didn’t know how much time it would take, but I woke up at 4 a.m. in the morning, five days a week, pushed him out of bed and into the gym.
I also had to figure out the most effective workout schedule for him.
Last week, he started complaining of a headache after taking his tablets for blood pressure (BP). I immediately got him checked without taking tablet and his BP was 110/80, the same as mine. We checked it again in the morning, the next day, without him taking a tablet and it was 130/80.
Then, I took him to his cardiologist and it was 135/80. Blood pressure rises as the day goes on and falls as dusk approaches. One glance at his ECG (electrocardiogram, it is used to check your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity) report and a cursory checkup of his heart using the stethoscope, was enough for the cardiologist to stop one tablet for blood pressure.
The headache has vanished. One tablet down and it is a momentous achievement in such a short span of time. Another six months and all other tablets could be gone too. Doctor also said he need not worry about his kidneys as he is active now.
He used to feel a bit shaky when walking and that has reduced after he stopped the tablet.
He used to get heartburns while cooking when we first opened our cloud kitchen, but not anymore. He was always fearful that reducing his food intake will make him weak.
I have put him on a diet of banana and papaya in the evening which has improved his digestion and decreased heartburns considerably.
Now, he knows that he has to eat healthy and keep working out to get rid of the tablets and to become fit. He is navigating the treadmill and air glider easily now, and I have put him on the machine fly, to make his chest and back muscles stronger.
Moreover, I am contemplating upgrading him to weight training exercises slowly. So, how about a new milestone? Participating in a body building competition for men above the age of 70? He is aghast at the thought.
I asked him how many people can do what he is doing, so why not be ambitious about it? Looks like my project may have just started, after all!
I am writing this to let the world know about the importance of staying fit throughout our lives. My mom started going for morning walks after seeing my dad started go to the gym. She has lost weight, started feeling better and her thyroid condition has improved.
It is also important to understand that the medical system we follow only treats us when we are sick. Hospitals are not wellness centers and very few doctors advise us to live healthy lives and prevent diseases.
Ironically, cardiologists check the condition of the heart by making patients undergo treadmill test (TMT) but they do not advise patients to work out on treadmill every day.
We have been living our lives as we used to. None of us have got infected with Covid-19 or any other disease. Goes to show how important daily routine, exercise, healthy food and mental health are to maintaining a robust immune system, which in turn will protect us from diseases.
We have all been conditioned to believe that our value is in the money we have, our jobs, size of our house, size and number of cars, quantity of gold we possess, etc. and our social status is measured by these parameters which forces us to chase them our entire lives.
What we conveniently forget or ignore is, we are social animals and what is truly important for us are health and relationships.
Only when we have these will all our accomplishments truly make sense in our lives. We don’t really have to take any extra effort to improve our lives, we just need to understand this one simple fact.