I've been on a quest for a few weeks now to improve my health, but it's not just about weight loss. There's more to it than that.
If you're new to my blog or in case you've forgotten, my mother was completely incapacitated by Multiple Sclerosis before her eventual death from complications of the disease at the age of 61. She showed symptoms of the illness in her late 30s. She first used a wheelchair the night of my high school graduation and she never got out of it. She went into a nursing home when she was 53.
While MS isn't considered hereditary, there are some genetic links. I know that this is vague enough that I shouldn't worry, but it's also vague enough that I do.
And I should also point out that my age, 36, is pretty close to my late 30s.
Last year, my doctor diagnosed me with Raynaud's Syndrome. Basically this is a condition where my hands and feet overreact to cold temperatures by not getting blood to flow to them. My fingers and toes turn white and blue. Sometimes they are numb; sometimes they hurt.
There are two types of Raynaud's: Primary and Secondary. Primary means that the syndrome occurs independent of another illness with no known cause. It tends to occur in people who get migraines and can have flare ups after caffeine consumption and stress.
The other type, Secondary, occurs as a symptom of another illness like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Or MS. But, you may say, you don't have any other symptoms of MS, so why worry? Well, sometimes even though the Raynaud's is technically secondary, it can actually be the first symptom of the underlying disease and can sometimes occur 20 years before a diagnosis can be made on the disease the Raynaud's is secondary to.
I'm not saying that I'm worried I have MS. I am saying I can't help worrying that I'll get MS. I am saying that I have read enough about MS and Raynaud's to know that I am not living a healthy enough lifestyle to prevent real threats from becoming real problems. I do not eat like someone who seeks to avoid disease. I do not exercise like someone who wants her body in top fighting form no matter what enemy it's up against. I put things in my body that will do nothing other than offer me some temporary enjoyment at the expense of long term suffering.
Very simply put:
- I should not drink alcohol.
- I should never touch another cigarette.
- I should eliminate my caffeine addiction.
- I should engage in vigorous exercise 5-6 times per week.
- I should eat a plant-based, low calorie, low fat diet. And I mean vegan, not lacto-ovo vegetarian.
There's no guarantee that making these changes would save my life. There's no guarantee that not making these changes means I'd get sick. There are just no guarantees.
But making the changes certainly wouldn't hurt me. They can do nothing at all for me, but they can't hurt me. I don't really have a choice, do I?
My first thought is that I can do these things. I can choose a different path and maybe I can worry less. But can I make permanent changes? Can I change my habits and my diet for the rest of my life? I know that I shouldn't think that far into the future. How can I not though?
How do I not think about the enormity of forever?