50 for 50, Part 2: Results and Fear

I left the hospital thinking about what the future holds, and about how I'm going to take off 50 pounds during my 50th year... Fifty for 50. So, as I figure it out I'll write about it, in hopes that maybe a few of you can, too. It's not going to be easy. No great changes are.
08/29/2012 05:52 pm ET Updated Oct 29, 2012

The Cardiologist and Beyond

Part 1 of 50 for 50 here.

Part 2

I'm 49. I'm overweight. I'm on a blood pressure pill. Sound familiar?

A few weeks back I had a scare. Dizziness. Blurred vision. Soaring blood pressure. I went to my general doc, and then the cardiologist. Neither was very happy with me.

In the same day as a head CT and carotid artery scan, I was to have a resting and stress echo on my heart. So the day was spent on CT tables, in darkened rooms listening to my own blood flow through my veins or seeing my chambers in my heart beating, blood flowing.

Wakeup call. What was I doing? How could I have ended up here?

The stress echo cardiogram is just that: stressful. Not only do they stress your heart, but the cardiologist must be in the room, also the crash cart in case... Well, in case you drop! Wires are hooked to your chest, side, arms, and legs, and an electronic monitor is strapped to you. You then get put on a treadmill and the speed and inclination are increased until your heart reaches 155, or whatever they assess is stressful for you.

During this, my blood pressure went up to 225/95. I heard that and truly thought I was going to stroke out or something. He told me it was OK, my heart was showing no danger signs, keep going if I could.

As soon as they stopped the treadmill with me in stress, I had to lay on my side immediately so they could scan the heart. If all four chambers were beating, blood was being received. They compared the before and after... but not before I truly thought it was time. You can't catch your breath on your side right after being stressed out on a treadmill. I couldn't get air and truly felt this is how it feels to suffocate.

But I did get air, and in 20 minutes I got the results, and THE question from my cardiologist: Why am I working so hard to GET heart disease instead of avoiding it?

My arteries in my neck did not show blockage of 50 percent or more (the point they reference). There was no blockage in my heart, at least not 70 percent or above, or the echo would have shown it. My EKG showed no signs of heart attack, my brain no sign of stroke.

Yes, the blood pressure is high, so a second pill, Cozaar would be added to the Cardizem and Pravastatin regime. See the doctor in two weeks, and two weeks after that. And then the number.

"So, it's time you take off 50 pounds. You'll be 50 this year, and it's a great time to start..."

50 pounds? He talks like it's so easy.

"Here's the name of a movie I want you to watch (Forks Over Knives), and if you can, follow it. If not, then do this, it's a Mediterranean diet. Either way, there has to be a change. And exercise. I clear you for at least 30 minutes a day..." he went on.

But how? What does this mean? All these life changes, what do they actually mean? How do I actually do it? What do I actually eat? What exercises do I actually do? And how do I live through it all?

Well, because I'm in radio, I left there knowing I would have to arrange guests, experts, authors about what the future holds and how I'm going to take off 50 pounds during my 50th year... Fifty for 50.

So, as I figure it out, I'll write about it, in hopes that maybe a few of you can, too. It's not going to be easy. No great changes are. And I'm not sure I'll make it.

But I'm going to try. Because I'd rather have a lifetime of trying than one more night like that one a few weeks back, or days spent on medical tables and in various offices (also costing $6,000 by the end of the day, I kept track).

Fifty for 50. Here we go. But where? How?

The first thing was to watch the movie and plan a diet. Mediterranean or plant-based? Is there an app for this?

Overwhelmed. That's what happened, I became overwhelmed. This was a big life change, and big news. Get right, or live wrong, very wrong.

So the first thing I did... was nothing. That's right. Two weeks after all the visits, no real, tangible changes. Why not? What as I waiting for, a real stroke?

Dinner. That's what it took. A week ago I was walking a half-mile in Santa Monica along the beach to dinner with friends. On the way back, I got winded -- winded, after only a half mile. Yes, it was 80 and humid, but still. Winded, sweaty, after a half-mile.

This will not stand. I was embarrassed and afraid, afraid my healthy years were gone. It's that fear that opened the door.

So where did I finally begin? What exercises and food? That comes next, in 50 for 50 part three.

For more by Charles Karel Bouley, click here.

For more on personal health, click here.