How I Learned to Take Control of My Health | Patient Blog by Vascular Cures’ Patient Partner Mechket G.
During a sunny afternoon in December 2020, there was no better excuse to go shopping than Christmas, especially in the extravagant Malls of Dubai. I had plenty of time to spare, had a spirit of giving, and dreamed of finding that perfect gift for everyone I cared for. Suddenly, something was shifting inside me. My right foot didn’t respond anymore and a severe pain in my right thigh stopped me from walking.
I had never heard of Critical Limb Ischemia* before. I never thought in my wildest dreams that during a shopping spree I would end up in an ambulance. Or that a vascular surgeon would be softly explaining to me that my condition is extremely critical, life-threatening and… that it may lead to limb amputation. It was so devastating!
Thankfully, my vascular surgeon performed a miracle and saved my limb!
It is in our human nature to always seek the TRUTH.
Finding at least one of the root causes of this potentially fatal condition that entered my life without invitation became my obsession after my experience over Christmas. I realized there might be many causes, but I wanted to find at least one. I felt guilty and horrified that I had let my health deteriorate. These are powerful emotions that can lead to change.
Several months after my recovery, my overall health was improving but still not at its best. I was able to walk, but not for long distances. I felt tired all the time, I felt hungry all the time. I loved eating, I loved food, I enjoyed food, and I found happiness in food.
So I tried to dig in deep down and wanted to understand my relationship with food and my love for food. As a child and adolescent, I lived in many countries. My father was an Ambassador, so I met many people and experienced many cultures. I went to many schools, made a lot of friends and most importantly, tried many cuisines. Through all of my travels, food was my constant: my closest friend.
In my circle of friends, there were many who were either allergic to or had restrictions around some foods. I was among the few for whom EVERYTHING was permitted. No restrictions whatsoever! What a blessing (I believed). I was allowed to eat whatever I fancied, never even asking myself if that is good or bad for me. I was eating for happiness and not for hunger, because I felt blessed.
I then started educating myself about food – I had never been to a nutritionist or dietician in my entire life. I found out how much information I was missing.
It is at that time that I found out I had Metabolic Syndrome. My waistline was more than 35 inches, my blood pressure (BP) was high, my glucose, or blood sugar, was high, my LDL (“bad” cholesterol) was high, and my HDL (“good” cholesterol) was low. The more I learned and understood about metabolic syndrome, the more I realized that it is possible to “reverse” it.
It’s been 2 months since I cut out processed sugar and carbohydrates and switched to eating whole foods… the incredible results of this nutrition shift appeared in just 10 days in my blood tests! I am not prediabetic anymore, with no insulin resistance! My bad cholesterol levels went down, my BP is normal and my HDL went up. These were targets I had been trying to hit for a while, but it took me looking at my relationship with food to create that change. When I had first tried to change my lifestyle, the focus had been on only my smoking habits. I wish I had had this wake-up call earlier that I needed to educate – and empower – myself when it came to nutrition.
As a CLI survivor, I can now walk longer distances with very little to no pain at all. I can wear heels again. I am more active and focusing much better in my work. Above all, my relationship with food started to reward me instead of destroy me. My best friend became just an acquaintance.
My journey has just started. Hippocrates once said to “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” and so far I am happy to keep educating myself, trying the best I can to add extra disease-free years to my life. I hope to prevent any interruptions in my future Christmas shopping sprees and beyond.
For more information on making healthy choices to reduce your risk of diabetes, visit the following resources:
The American Diabetes Association provides tips and techniques for eating healthy, and their advice applies to many different lifestyles and incomes. https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition
Vascular Cures’ flyer on PAD and Diabetes provides excellent tips on watching what you eat, including counting carbohydrates and saturated fats: https://vascularcures.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/VC_PAD-and-Diabetes_Hi-res-FINAL.pdf
The CDC provides resources on diabetes meal planning and how to read nutrition labels, so that you can empower yourself to make healthier choices: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/eat-well.html
* Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI) is also known as Chronic limb-threatening ischemia. Chronic limb-threatening ischemia (CLTI) is a clinical syndrome defined by the presence of peripheral artery disease (PAD) in combination with rest pain, gangrene, or a lower limb ulceration >2 weeks duration. CLTI is associated with amputation, increased mortality and impaired quality of life. . . . All patients with suspected CLTI should be referred urgently to a vascular specialist.