I have been meaning to write this blog for a few months, but now I have the headspace to tell my story of the (what I now see as) welcome health diagnosis I received on the last day of my 30s.
As part of this post, my new favourite jewellery brand, Daisy London, kindly gifted me some absolutely beautiful eco-friendly earrings that have helped me illustrate this post. Read on to find out more.
40 years old
As I approached 40 years old, I was generally fearing it. How can the sprightly 18 year old in my brain be turning 40?! I always remember being on the stairs of my old house at my mum’s 40th birthday party. She seemed SO OLD! How can I possibly be here myself?
That said, this IS going to be a great decade, and nothing will get in my way.
- My entire 30s was all about child rearing. My 40s is now my chance to live life for me.
- This decade is make or break for my business. I choose MAKE!
- It’s the decade I start investing my hard earned cash, and building a nest-egg to set my children off on good footing, and to build a good retirement fund.
- It’s the decade I stop worrying what people think of me, and just do what makes me and my family happy.
- It’s the time I love myself more, and I stop letting confidence issues get in the way of going where I want to go.
I digress slightly, but I started 2022 listening to the most incredible audiobook ‘Girl, Stop Apologising!’ It has resonated with me so incredibly that it’s turned into my absolute bible for 2022. It’s propelled me into such a positive state that I feel I can accomplish literally anything.
But, here we go with all the juicy details of my recent health diagnosis…
Ok, so what happened to me?
About 6 months ago, close to my 40th birthday, I had a spontaneous blood vessel rupture in the back of my leg. I pride myself as not a hypochondriac, but this scared the living daylights out of me as the blood crept further down my leg under the skin. I thought it was a blood clot, and I freaked out for hours waiting for a doctor’s diagnosis. Dramatically, I thought I was going to die that day.
Luckily, it was nothing serious, and the doctor I saw that day was so thorough that he left me really comforted that soon I will know why that happened.
The tests and diagnosis
I was ordered to have an ECG, I had to monitor my blood pressure for 2 weeks and then have a bunch of blood tests. I had to wait 2 weeks to get that all done, then a week for the blood results.
After monitoring my blood pressure, it was clear to see something was happening. No matter the time of day, my blood pressure was reading at risk, or high. However, I was happy to learn that the Doctor didn’t see anything to worry about on my ECG.
When the blood results came, I was shocked to learn that I had extremely high bad cholesterol, extremely high triglycerides, low good cholesterol, plus high blood pressure.
This diagnosis left me worried, but also a bit embarrassed because I thought I was one of the healthy ones! I had a low-risk lifestyle, I have never smoked, I was a vegan all of 2021, and a vegetarian since 10 years old. However, I was a little overweight and did not move enough over the period of being in lockdown and the situation didn’t improve beyond that!
The moment I realised I was taking my health for granted
After some research, I figured I was eating too much of those so-called healthy meat alternatives, vegan cheeses, and plant-based oils. I’m looking at you, coconut oil!
However, diet aside, my family history shows type 2 diabetes and all of the above, so I figured I was following that path despite my lifestyle being relatively low risk. As part of the ongoing monitoring, I will be tested for a genetic condition where the body produces too much bad cholesterol, plus I have to make some lifestyle changes.
Being told by the Doctor that I had a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke was a shock. This was the kick up the butt I needed. I needed to wise up and make some changes to my lifestyle fast.
I need to stop living in denial
Even though I wasn’t the unhealthiest person on the planet, far from it, I had to look at every aspect of my life.
As I mentioned, I wasn’t moving enough whilst we were in lockdown and I was using the extreme stress and pressure of my business and the pandemic (work from home + homeschooling = arrrghhhhhhh) as an excuse to not prioritise healthiness:
- Too little time to go food shopping and cook meant too many takeaways were being consumed
- Lockdown meant lack of movement and fresh air
- Anxiety meant that I didn’t even want to go out of the house anyway
- I could feel my heart beating fast, and hear the blood rushing in my ears but I put it down to stress and ignored it
- I drank alcohol most days whilst in lockdown, and was binge drinking too much after lockdown lifted
Ok, so, what the heck am I going to do about it?
I got the diagnosis from the doctor the day before I turned 40, and ever since then I have made the choice to turn my health around. I am pretty driven, so when I put my mind to something I usually work hard to achieve it.
The main realisation whirling around my head was that I’m bloody scared of dying before I get to see my children grow up. Just writing that makes me emotional. How could I have let my blood become so full of cholesterol that it’s threatening my life? I am seeing that bleed in my leg was my warning sign; my guardian angel telling me that I need to wise up and stop the excuses not to prioritise my health.
So, if you’re curious, here are some of the changes I have adopted in the past few months:
- I have vastly cut down my intake of saturated fat and increased my intake of good fats
- I cook from scratch more, and make sure that my plate is full of vegetables, grains and low fat plant protein
- I no longer eat vegan alternatives apart from tofu
- I have vastly cut down all forms of sugar, even fruit sugar
- I have cut down on drinking
- I have cut down on takeaways, and when I do have them, I have the healthiest thing on the menu
- I choose wholegrains like wholemeal pasta, brown rice, wholemeal breads
- I sold my car so I have to walk every day (I try to aim for at least 40 mins per day)
- I religiously choose yoga for relaxation and strengthing
- I don’t eat until I am hungry
- I take a plant sterol supplement
- I take a vegan omega supplement
- I make sure I consider my health before anything else
This doesn’t mean that I have to eat lettuce and say no to social occasions, no way! There are so many incredible heart-healthy things to eat. Also, there are always temptations to knock you off the path, but the best thing to do is to find a balance, and something sustainable.
I fall off the wagon sometimes, usually around my period, and just have to have the vegan cookie in Pret that I can’t stop thinking about or the massive bowl of white pasta that’s speaking to me at lunchtime. I savour and enjoy every bite of it, and then I hop back onto the path of good health.
The physical effects of prioritising my health
It’s so hard to make vast changes to your lifestyle without having some benefits to enjoy. But boy am I glad I have made these changes because the results are so enjoyable that every day there is no debate about why I choose to be healthy.
- I have lost weight, especially around my waist, tummy, thighs and butt. (Everywhere really, it’s amazing!) I have lost 1.5 dress sizes, and aiming to get into a comfy size 10 by the summer!
- I feel like I have a spring in my step
- I feel light and healthy
- My back doesn’t hurt as much
- My tummy feels less full and uncomfortable
- I can bend over without sighing! That’s party down to yoga, but it’s also because I’m not as heavy!
- I can get into my pre-lockdown clothes
The mental effects of prioritising my health
- As a result of losing weight, I am so much more body confident. I have had three children, and I was attributing my round tummy and areas of cellulite to being pregnant three times and aging, not to being too sedentary. Seeing an hourglass figure, with no muffin-top is incredible, and my butt has shrunk about a mile.
- Before I turned 40, I couldn’t look at myself in photos unless they were vastly edited – thank you filters! Now when I look, I see every photo as a reminder that I am working hard for health.
- I look forward to exersising! I know it will impact my day, and long-term physical health, so it spurs me on.
- I enjoy eating healthy food, and feel great about choosing to eat that rather something bad for me.
- Health and nutrition (even before this diagnosis) is so important to me as a mother, and it’s an absolute gift to have my children learning along with me that heart health matters, even from a young age.
- I’m damn proud of myself for choosing to make these changes, and to stick to them. And I am thankful that I have been given the chance to clean up my lifestyle and give myself the best chance to staying heart healthy for as long as possible.
- Lastly, it pains me to say, but this has made me appreciate my children more. If I choose to let stress / lack of motivation / bad priorities rule and run my life, I may cause myself some debilitaing or life-threatening scenarios. Having this diagnosis has made me appreciate that life is for living, loving and enjoying, and I appreciate every single day I get to experience with my loved ones.
Next steps, and the future…
I am at the beginning of this journey, so I am yet to take a test to see if anything I have been doing is having a positive effect on my levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides.
However, I have a home heart health test to take next week that I bought from Let’s Get Checked. That will give me a comprehensive result that rivals a GP’s test in the interim. I will be eligible to take the official NHS tests again in early 2022 (soon.)
If I can lower the levels myself I will be so happy. However, if I can’t, I will likely go on medication for the rest of my life and have the tests to get the genetic condition confirmed. I feel positive that I can do this independently of medication, so I will keep prioritising my health every single day!
The resources that helped me wise up on heart health, if you’re curious…
- I started with this blog by the Vegan Society about cholesterol.
- I use this checklist by Heart UK (stuck to my fridge) to see if I have included and omitted the right foods every day It’s called the Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Plan for vegans.
- Also, this Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Plan for vegans factsheet is really handy when you’re trying to make changes to your diet, and for understanding what is happening to your body.
- Lastly, I scoured this comprehensive section of the NHS website to learn all about what was happening inside my body, what could happen to me, and to support my lifestyle changes.
More about Daisy London Jewellery
Daisy London pieces are made out of the highest quality recycled sterling silver, and the gold pieces are then lovingly plated with 18-carat gold. Being sustainable is something that’s very important to me (check out my other eco-friendly posts) so I was thrilled, as well as honoured, to collaborate with a brand whose values align.
We create pieces that are missing from our own jewellery collections and put them in to yours. Each piece is designed to be an extension of your own personal style, wherever you are in the world. Dreamt up in London’s Portobello Road, after launching in 2009 with the namesake Daisy collection inspired by wildflowers, the brand has grown to cult status, fusing a bohemian state of mind with wearable, contemporary jewellery design.
At a time when I am falling back in love with my body and realising the significance of health, the earrings have marked the occasion perfectly. Especially the Vita Drop earrings (the little woman’s bodies) pair. I would never usually have chosen such a design, but they are beautifully crafted and an absolutely perfect symbol of this period in my life.
40 years young
You may have noticed that I started this post with the title ’40 years old.’ Well, I am choosing to end it with 40 years young. I have been focussing a lot on getting over my mental health issues over the last few years, and in doing so, my physical health has fallen by the wayside. Nobody can help me out of this jam but myself, so I am choosing to see this diagnosis as an opportunity, grasping it with my whole 40-year-old self!