I mentioned that I had a recent health scare in my last article and many of you have been asking me about it. So, since I've always believed in 100% transparency on my blog, here's exactly what happened and How My Plant-Based Diet Saved My Life.
This is PART 1 of what I imagine will be a series of articles covering the "Who, What, and When" of my very first trip to the hospital.
Today I'll talk about the WHAT and the WHY...
In the next article, I'll cover the HOW, as in how the hospital treated me, and more importantly - how I treated myself.
An Unexpected Turn Of Events
On February 24, 2020 - (which just happened to have been my dad's birthday - miss you dad)...
I felt ...... "funny".
Odd... even. A feeling I've never had before.
Not quite sick, but definitely not right? I knew it wasn't a cold or the flu, and this was weeks before Covid-19 was in full panic mode, but still - something was off.
Slightly nauseous? Kind of dizzy even? Maybe a little vertigo?
Weird for sure and I even had this sense of dread - especially when I noticed my speech starting to slur.
What was that all about?
I know - I should have gone to the ER right then and there. But I ignored the symptoms and besides, there's no way I could be having a stroke. I'm Vegan! I had no muscle weakness, no facial drooping, nothing like that. So I told myself it's probably nothing.
"It'll go away", I told my wife, and went on about my day. (She WAS concerned btw and tried to convince me to go - what can I say, I'm stubborn)
Only it didn't go away
The next day it was back again, even stronger. I was still slurring my speech and I had that really bad sense of dread again. Something was seriously wrong and for the first time in a very long time, I teared up. 🙁
I had my wife take me to my doctor who promptly told me to go to the Emergency Room, which led to my very first ever, overnight stay in a hospital.
I was poked and prodded for hours while they ran their tests.
I had CT-scans, an MRI, and even an Echocardiogram. I got an IV, the funny gown that never fits right, and even my very own bottle to pee in (seriously?).
All of that to tell me what I already kind of suspected.....
NOTE: Remember the acronym FAST.
- F - facial drooping
- A - arm weakness
- S - speech problems
- T - time to call 911
If you have ANY of the systems, call 911 immediately. If a stroke is caught in the first 4 hours, any damage may be able to be reversed.
So yes, as you might have already guessed, I had a stroke.
An Acute Ischemic Stroke to be exact, and from what they told me, a very mild one, and that I was very LUCKY.
Well, naturally I wanted to know WHY?! How could this happen, especially to ME?!
Every doctor that came into my room, I demanded to know WHY this happened. How?! I'm healthy! I eat whole food, plant-based! Why is my cholesterol high?! I don't eat animal products!!
Yeah, I was mad as hell and my wife said I was NOT a very good patient lol. To make matters worse, I had TWO nurses try to tell me that plants have cholesterol. Yes, plants. (they don't)
I said, "You have google out there?! Ya might want to look that up!"
Sheesh! We have really got to get some nutritional training in our med schools!
Naturally, my Blood Pressure was high. In the ER it was 174/105 but I was scared, irritated, and very angry. But my cholesterol was also high at 201 with my LDL at 129. And I was overweight at 206 lbs, despite my plant-based diet.
Clearly I thought, I was doing something wrong.
And then came, the guilt.
Here I am, a blogger who teaches people how to eat healthily, and I'm overweight, have high blood pressure, and have high cholesterol.
For the very first time, I felt like a complete failure.
So many people look up to me for advice!
And here I am in the hospital being treated for a stroke!
I'm letting them down!
They'll never trust me again!
I was in a very dark place for sure, and THAT is why I went offline for a while.
But then I remembered something one of my doctors told me. He said I may never know why this happened.
It could be:
- My crappy SAD diet before I committed to plant-based
- The fact I used to be a smoker
- Lack of exercise
- A whole career working nights
- Tons and tons of stress
But one thing he told me I will never forget.....
How My Plant-Based Diet Saved My Life
He said if I had still been eating a Standard American Diet, at 57 yrs old, this stroke probably would have been worse.
Much, much, worse.
He said my diet didn't cause this stroke..... my plant-based diet probably saved my life!
For 50 years I ate whatever I wanted and treated my body pretty badly too. And I'm sure that in those 50 years, I caused some damage. Which was pretty obvious by my blood pressure and cholesterol.
All those cheeseburgers, all those fries, the BBQ, the pizza, the cigarettes, the booze....
But ... in the last 10 years or so since I became plant-based and started this blog, I have begun to reverse some of that damage.
I keep hearing his words, "It could have been a lot worse".
By eating a whole-food, plant-based diet these last 10 years, I prevented this minor stroke (which may have happened no matter what), from becoming a MAJOR stroke.
And that could have crippled me for life - or ended it permanently.
So, if you read my last article How I Cured My Hypertension in 30 Days Without Dieting, you can see what I am doing now to try and speed that healing process even more.
So that's it.
That's why I've been so quiet lately.
I am fine now, with NO residual damage to speak of (with the exception of a little slurring here and there, nothing that speech therapy can't fix).
I can walk, I can talk, I have no limp, and no weakness of any kind. You basically cannot tell I just had a stroke 6 weeks ago.
As they said, I was LUCKY.
As I mentioned before, I have cleaned up my diet even more, dropped 18.5 lbs, and have basically cured my hypertension. I take absolutely NO medications and walk a minimum of 30 minutes daily.
I wanna thank my good friends Trish & Kim who not only looked after my Facebook Group while I was out, but have also been the best support group ever, AND my dear wife for never leaving my side and putting up with all my grumpiness.
I couldn't have made it through this without you. Hugs to you all.
We can talk more about this in my next Livestream if you want, and I will be writing a few more articles as well.
Until then..... be safe, wear those masks, and wash those hands. It just so happens that a plant-based diet not only helps with chronic diseases like hypertension and CVD, it may even be just the thing to prevent this CoronaVirus as well.
Feed that immune system!
Hi Chuck. I'm so glad to hear you have recovered from your stroke. Scary stuff. After reading your story, I did a quick search on foods that thicken blood. Not surprising, I suppose, especially after Dr. Gregor confirmed that vegans have a higher chance of having a stroke, dark leafy greens are the number one contributor to thickening blood. Just about everyone I know, including myself, that eats a plant based diet, eat a significant amount of greens. I have no doubt that this plays a large role in why vegans have a higher risk of having a stroke.
Thank you for sharing your story. Because of what has happened to you, and looking into this phenomenon further myself, I am altering my diet to include fewer greens, and to balance my overall vegetable intake so that no one group of vegetables is dominate in my diet. I guess the saying that too much of a good thing can be bad is very true in this case. It's easy to fall into the "more is better" trap with plant based eating. I am learning from Ray Cronise that this is not necessarily true. I have been learning a lot lately about how to improve my diet even more.
OMG, Chuck. That is one he'll of a scare! So glad you've pulled through! I can't get over the plants have cholesterol thing. Just,WTF. That's just basic biology and something that should never have been thought by any nurse anywhere.
Thank you for sharing your latest learning experience - Even vegans can have strokes! But the WFPB diet can help and protect you even then! You are a great blessing to so many people! Your recipes are helping to save lives! Your job here on earth is not up yet! You still have a lot of good work to do! Thanks for your great example, even if you did have a stroke! Hope you are feeling much better! We're behind you!
That “really bad sense of dread”. I know the feeling. I had a heart attack at the age of 48 four years ago. That feeling put the fear of death in me that motivated me to change my diet. My daughters would bring me fruits and carrot juice smoothies so I wouldn’t have to eat hospital food (I didn’t really know about whole food plant based eating yet, but I felt I shouldn’t eat the hamburger they brought me right after getting a stent put in ??♀️). I didn’t even realize my high cholesterol could give me heart problems; boy, I’ve learned so much over these years! Thank you for sharing your experience, it reminds me of that feeling and how I will do whatever I need to in order to avoid it in the future.
Thanks for sharing and so glad to hear you are on the mend. I am 57 years old as well and despite a plant based diet still over what I should be in weight. What helps us all is honesty like this and helping each other get through it. We can’t learn from each other if we pretend it’s okay when it’s not and that it is easy when it isn’t. Thanks again. Best wishes.
So glad to hear that you’re on the mend. I’ve been plant based for several years and always thought I was heart attack proof. I never had a heart attack thank goodness but I did end up having to have bypass surgery. Thank goodness you went to the ER when you did, I know exactly how you feel as far as thinking it could never happen to you because of your diet because I felt the same way. You take care and we all look forward to more of your delicious recipes! ??????
Hi Chuck....so scary and glad you are ding well. Will you be sharing how you are eating on the average day? Just curious.
carol ann sturm
I feel you. I have been veggies for 25 years specifically because of my family history of heart disease. On no medication of any kind, my blood pressure and cholesterol were good. Last year at the age of 62 i developed AFib. Out of nowhere! I'm now on blood thinners to prevent a stroke and blood pressure meds for when I have my episodes. I asked the Dr. why this would happen to a healthy active person like me. I was devastated. He said it could have presented itself when I was 50 instead of 62 had I not taken the veggie step 25 years ago. It just goes to show you, you can do what you can, but your body is going to do what it wants! Hopefully both of us can take these experiences and learn something from them. Here's to good health!!
On the bright side, no negative effect on your great head of hair. From a 63 year old 8 year plant based convert with receding hairline.
Thank you for sharing with us the story of your health scare. To have a stroke, out of the blue, and being Vegan!
You give the rest of us something to think on as we follow in your footsteps, learning to eat a plant-based diet.
I am female, 65 years old, 5 feet tall and 160 pounds, with HTN and diabetes . In the past 3 months, with the Coronavirus situation, I have dropped 5 pounds. It’s mostly because my doctor gave me the scary news that I have kidney damage (8.0 on the A1C). Using some of your Vegan recipes along with our ( 75% SAD / 25% vegan) diet, has helped pull off some pounds. Also walking our dog twice a day gets me away from the computer. I work from home, so I am lucky to still have my job.
Keep up the good work teaching us to eat healthy while having tasty meals!
So glad you are doing okay. Thank you for sharing your story. You are helping so many people!
206 lbs at 6' tall does not sound very bad at all....but....it speaks nothing of your individual leanness. When the corona scare passes--and if you're curious---I would suggest a dexa scan for an accurate bodyfat and lean muscle mass assessment. You might be very surprised at the results! I am a petite woman--a runner with shapely legs and a small clothing size--so I was completely gobsmacked when the doctor told me I was at 30%BF. Luckily my visceral fat was in a healthy range....but still....knowledge is power!
Glad to know you didn't have any serious damage. I believe eating wfpb saved my life too!
Well first, I'm very sorry to hear about this very scary incident. I agree with another poster who says you should divide your recipes between plant strong and plant perfect... And I'm sorry , just crappy luck, that you will most likely have to eat in the plant perfect category while others get to eat avocado and cashews a little more liberate liberally.