If you’ve read my story about how I developed debilitating microvascular angina in my late forties, and how miserable and unwell I felt, you may be surprised that when I look back on that period I’m often filled with gratitude for it. This is not to say I would be happy to do it again, but I do think that having gone through that experience, the second half of my life is going to be much better than it would have been otherwise.
Reason #1 My heart disease had symptoms
I’m sure you’ve heard about how atherosclerosis (artery disease) begins very young in people who consume the standard American diet. Even back as far as the Korean War, they found disease in young soldiers. Children now have fatty streaks in their arteries. But the human body has an amazing capacity to deal with less than optimal situations and heart disease isn’t diagnosed until symptoms develop. Unfortunately for about 40% of heart patients, their first symptom is a fatal heart attack.
My trim, active and apparently healthy Uncle Peter died last year of a heart attack in his sleep. He was 71.
Because I developed symptoms when I was 48, I was forced to take action to improve my condition. By healing the blood vessels that caused angina pain, I’ve given myself the best chance at vibrant health. I’m positive I wouldn’t be eating a whole food plant-based diet if I’d felt well.
I was given the opportunity to make changes in my life that have had profound beneficial effects. My Uncle Peter and many others did not.
Reason #2 By using a whole food plant-based diet to cure my angina, I fixed my other health issues
My motivation to change to a whole food plant-based diet was solely to fix my angina and fatigue. As a woman of a certain age, I had a number of other issues but none of them disabled me in the way that my angina did, and I thought they were normal. Just the price of admission to middle age.
For years I put up with eczema, especially in the winter. Gone. I had always endured seasonal allergies but I went through pollen season quite unscathed this year. I often had unsettled digestion and diarrhea. No more. My periods were hellish. Crampy and flooding and I couldn’t wait for menopause for them to be over. But now they’re fine, though I still think I’ve had them long enough. I had plantar fasciitis and other aches and pains that have all resolved.
I lost all the weight I gained in my adult life. About 40 pounds of it.
Except for my grey hair, which I’m sorry to report the whole food plant-based diet didn’t change, I look and feel so much younger than I did a year ago and my angina is gone.
If I hadn’t developed the angina at such a young age, I would still be putting up with all the other stuff and feeling older than my years.
Reason #3 I appreciate my good health now like I never did before
Having been through a period of disease from which I was given no hope of recovery, I truly feel like a miracle. I realize that my case is not miraculous, it is only a typical outcome for someone who has switched to a whole food plant-based diet.
When you have struggled to accept significant limitations in your life and you are all of a sudden freed of them it truly is like being given a second chance. A second chance filled with the promise of health and vitality for years to come, and to fully understand what a gift it is to be well. I am grateful everyday to live without pain and illness.
Reason #4 I’m fitter now than I was before I got sick
When I was sick and struggled to exercise, I hated that I was so weak and out of shape. I promised myself that if I ever recovered, I would make myself strong and fit. To be honest, I didn’t think there was much chance of having to make good on my promise. But within a few weeks of starting to eat a wfpb diet, I knew I could start some serious exercise. I bought a Concept 2 rowing machine and started rowing. And rowing and rowing and rowing. And now I’m stronger and fitter and thinner than I have been in my adult life. I’ve transformed from a chubby middle aged woman into an athlete. And it feels great.
Reason #5 I’m living more in line with my values
I adopted a strict vegan diet in order to heal my body, but I soon realized that I was also able to shed the cognitive dissonance between eating animals and loving them. I have often failed to live up to my own ideals, but at least with my diet I now feel that my actions and my beliefs are aligned.
But it all boils down to one thing:
My life is better now than it was before and I’m grateful to my angina for forcing me to examine my diet and lifestyle and make serious changes before it was too late.