I am sixty six year old retired teacher … this means that I was a child in the 1950s when views on diet were very different to what they are today. In the fifties food was very predictable and views were overshadowed by rationing. Sugar was big. My mother told me that sugar gave us energy and encouraged me to eat as much of it as as possible. I was taken to the dentist very regularly and was given many fillings under anaesthetic, but I have no memory of the dentist ever discussing diet with my mother. I was told we had genetically bad teeth. This, I now question.
We had 3 meals a day:
- A cooked breakfast – bacon, egg, sausage, tomato, fried bread, sometimes porridge with golden syrup or black treacle
- Cooked lunch – meat or fish, two veg, sometimes cheese and salad and of course pudding
- Tea – sandwiches, cake, biscuits. This later became high tea – add eggs, ham, beans on toast or spaghetti on toast (this tinned variety was my introduction to pasta).
On Sundays we would have roast dinner and pudding, on Mondays cottage pie / left over roast / chicken in white sauce, on Friday we had fish or cheese – I liked cheese pudding which was made with breadcrumbs, milk and egg.
My brother and I were encouraged to buy and eat sweets We did of course have school meals which were dreadful and involved frequent episodes of food poisoning. I was put off green vegetables for years.
By the time I had my stroke in December 2015 I thought my diet was pretty good – mainly vegetarian, but still quite a lot of cheese, less sugar – which wouldn’t have taken much! I went swimming twice a week. I was subsequently diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure.
Having a stroke is acknowledged as life changing – I wish this hadn’t been the case, but it was as I am now disabled, have to walk with a stick, got a frozen shoulder – which stopped me from swimming. I also developed high blood pressure and was put on a number of pills and sent to a cardiologist.
I thought it best to try and change my lifestyle – I stopped working so hard, commuting every day and working in offices with no healthy food. I started to work with Team Breakthrough in Box – asking them to help me get my blood pressure down and improve my mobility. They gave me lots of advice about diet. This was different to the advice I had previously learned which had been about calories. What I did was:
- reduce sugar significantly – which included giving up orange juice
- reduce cheese
- reduce bread
- eat brown rice and pasta
- eat more vegetables
- limit fruit to 1 portion a day
- eat more stir fries and fish
- eat more pulses
- have full fat butter and milk.
I looked at the Cardiologist Kitchen website when the doctor had advised me to look at my diet and do more exercise. The latter was hard to do because of my mobility problems, but someone said you could get down blood pressure by mediation, so I started doing that twice a day.
To my amazement it actually worked and my blood pressure came down and the cardiologist signed me off. Of course, I am not a saint all the time – no one can be. Sometimes if you are travelling there is limited choice of food, so I just do my best. I allow myself 1 glass of orange juice a week and cauliflower cheese once a month. I have one chunky KitKat per week instead of one a day! I have 2 squares of dark chocolate in the evening. I occasionally have a pudding or a cake but not very much.
I learned to cook more vegan food. With all things there has to be a balance. As my doctor said to me when I was struggling with cheese ‘Life is too short to never have cauliflower cheese’.
I recommend the Cardiologist Kitchen website to everyone I know who is concerned with health and information about it is now flying around the States courtesy of my friend there.
I wish everyone coping with BP problems the best of luck with changing their lifestyle to improve their health.