Sunday, February 17, 2013

Low Salt; No Salt; Restricted Diet, Oh, My!

If you are not already a label-reader in the grocery store, being put on a salt-restricted diet will make one out of you in a big hurry!
It is shocking just how much salt is in the foods we all eat on a daily basis, without even thinking about it.  Since hubby has been put on a (preferably NO salt) diet, but a limit of not over 1500 mg per day, I challenge you to try and meet that using regular grocery store offerings.
It is damned near impossible for several reasons.  First, anything that comes in a can or box has far more sodium than is healthy for anyone, especially when you add up all the sources consumed in a normal day.
As an example, a single slice of bread contains between 170 and 250 mg of sodium; and I don't know anyone outside of a toddler that would be satisfied with a single-slice sandwich.  Therefore, the salt dosage must be doubled.  We are now at 340 mg, assuming the lower-salt bread.  Now, for the condiments: most people use both mayonnaise and mustard on a cheese or lunch meat sandwich.  The mayo comes in at 85 mg per tablespoon; the mustard at 60 mg per teaspoon.  Now, a teaspoon is not enough to spread and fully cover the slice of bread, so again, we must double the count.  So, 85 + 120 = 205 mg for condiments, and we haven't even gotten to the main filling.  Now, we have found a lower-sodium brand of lunch meat for him, called "Healthy Ones."  There is a Black Forest ham, rated at 360 mg for 6 slices.  The slices, mind you, are paper-thin. So, each slice is 60 mg.  But, a single slice or two doesn't make much of a sandwich for a good-sized man.  The same brand of oven-roasted turkey breast (even thinner slices!) come in at 180 mg per 6-slice "serving!"  That's 30 mg per slice.  So, the man wants 2 slices of each kind of lunch meat on his sandwich.  Not unreasonable, considering the thinness of the cuts, and the fact that 4 slices comes in under the rated 'serving' amount.  A slice of cheese is also desired.  That's the cheap, thin-sliced processed cheese that comes in individually wrapped slices.  (It's all we can afford.)  Hold onto your hat!  That stuff tips the sodium scale at about 150 mg. per slice!  
Let's add it up, then, shall we?

  1. 2 slices of bread                                              340 mg
  2. 4 slices of paper-thin lunch meat, total          180 mg
  3. 1 Tbsp. mayo                                                      85 mg
  4. 2 tsp. mustard                                                   120 mg
  5. 1 slice cheese                                                   150 mg
  6. Total for one sandwich:                                     875 mg
Out of a daily allowance of just 1500 mg of sodium, that single sandwich occupies nearly 3/4 of that total.  New problem at this point:  a big man of 6 feet tall with a muscular build at a bit over 200 pounds is not going to be satisfied by a single sandwich.  Uh-oh!  Double that 875 for 2 sandwiches, and you are at 1750 mg of sodium, or 250 mg above the daily allowance, and that's just a single meal!

Oh, I can hear folks saying, "Well, just don't eat this/that the other." Or, "Make your own bread, etc."  Yes.  I know.  I tried that.  It used to be that doing things yourself was less expensive, let alone healthier.  That is no longer true, however.  I tried it.  The sodium count in a jar of commercial spaghetti sauce is pretty high.  The cheaper varieties (within our budget) are even higher in the salt department.  So, I thought I would become Mrs. Homemaker, and create my own, homemade, very healthy, salt-free spaghetti sauce, starting with making my own tomato sauce.

Nice idea--but it didn't pan out so well.  I can buy a can measuring a little over a pint of the commercial stuff for between 98 cents for the cheapest and $3.98 for the fancy branded stuff.  So, I bought tomatoes (4 pounds), onions, garlic, and came home to begin my adventure.  I slaved over the stove literally most of the day, and ended up with approximately the same amount as a single commercial jar of sauce.  It was delicious, but:  the cost?  Six dollars and change!  Over double the cost of the fancy-branded sauces!  What is wrong with this picture?  

Canned soup is one of the worst offenders, with a single can offering up anywhere from 480 mg of sodium (that's for the so-called "heart-healthy" varieties) per serving, all the way up to over 1200 mg!  Oh, and yes, there are some few products made with no salt.  The issue with those is, they are over double the cost for a much smaller container! Why should we be charged more money for something left out?!

The problem with salt is, it makes you retain water.  That's bad enough, but know this:  retaining water makes your heart work harder, and also your lungs.  If you eat too much salt on a regular basis, you will develop health problems later on.  The effects are cumulative.

  Back in the old days, salt was used as a preservative, but with modern cooking, canning and freezing methods, that is no longer true, and those copious amounts of salt are not needed anymore.  While some salt is needed in the body, it is certainly not needed in these prodigious quantities.  It is nearly impossible to escape; it's in everything!  But, don't rely on my word--go look in your cupboards, and prepare to be shocked.

A serious and massive letter-writing campaign to the big agri-business food conglomerates, as well as to government food regulating agencies.  needs to be started.  WHY are they virtually poisoning us with all of this salt?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Next Milepost

The end result of all the years of trials and tribulation of the heart, is that he is now so disabled and low on energy that he is basically housebound, and has been for nearly a year.  It wears on him--a formerly very fit and active guy, who cannot stand just sitting around doing nothing.

After all that Hubby has been through, years of treatments, assorted prescription drugs, several hospitalizations for more stents, the latest heart attack has put him 'over the top,' if you will.
The doctors have informed him that there is nothing further to be done to fix the heart he has; he has been referred to the transplant team to begin the process of getting a new heart.

Wow!  That was a scary bit of information to absorb, and it shook him to the core.  Not only does this mean another major surgery, even more of a "big deal" than the bypass graft he had years back, but he is very disturbed by the concept that someone else must die in order for him to continue to live.

He is little consoled by everyone's reassurances that, "It was the person's wish," or "They are already dead." No, what bothers him is the sorrow and grief of the donor's family  over losing their loved one in an untimely manner.  What makes it even worse, is the information he was given that most transplants occur between October 15th and January 15th -- in other words, over the holidays, largely due to traffic accidents -- the worst possible time of year to suffer the loss of a family member or loved one. (Not that there is ever a good time for such an event.)

Now, the emotional roller-coaster begins.  He was told that at all times, he must remain within an hour's travel time of the hospital, near a phone, etc.  
Then, the meeting with the transplant team, and they decide that, "Well, we think it is best to keep the heart you came with as long as possible, so we're not going to recommend a transplant at this time.  We'll just get more aggressive with the medications."  Great!  A guy who detests drugs of all kinds, is now dependent upon a cocktail of about 15 medications to keep his ticker going!  

This is very stressful, and is hard on me as well.  Some of the other drugs he's been on, as well as simply the effects of all the heart attacks (he now stands at a total of 14!), have impacted his memory functions.  Oh--and they discovered during one test that he'd also had a small stroke.  It did not affect his physical functions, but apparently did nothing to help the memory issues.

Therefore, it falls to me to keep all the medications straight.  It is driving me crazy.  There are some for once a day; some for twice a day; some that must be held back if the blood pressure readings fall below a certain level; some that must be dose-adjusted based on telephone consults with the "team."  It is a constant juggling act, and a fearsome one, as too much or too little of some of these could be deadly.

He must monitor his weight and blood pressure on a daily basis; twice daily for the blood pressure.  He has been instructed to lose weight, and during his latest hospital stay, it was discovered that he was retaining water.  So, out trots the team with the Lasix...a strong diuretic that results in "output" of about three times the input of what you drink.  A royal pain in the butt.

The hardest part?  He was put on a strict diet of no salt, and restricted liquid intake.  Now, it is bad enough to drink 2 or fewer quarts of water (or other liquid, such as soup) per day; but I challenge anyone to have a truly no salt diet.  I'll explore that adventure in the next installment.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Let's Start At the Very Beginning

Well, not quite the actual beginning, but let's back up to the year 1997.  That was when I met my current husband, a fine, healthy specimen of manhood. We found ourselves to be true soul-mates, and we had a wonderful year getting to know each other, then we became engaged, and bought a condo in San Francisco, where we were both born.

The timing was perfect, in a bittersweet way, for he came along and was my strong support when my mother unexpectedly died suddenly the following year. I don't know how I would have pulled through that without him.

Our wonderful, carefree time was short-lived, however, for during the following, year, my precious mate had a heart attack. Lest you think this was awfully young, I'll share that this was not a first marriage for either of us; we each had kids from prior marriages who were already grown. We were in our mid-to-late forties at the time.

However, I was in shock.  I could not lose this wonderful man so soon after finding him, and bringing him into my life! Thankfully, the doctors did a fine job of inserting arterial stents to open the coronary artery that had been blocked, causing his attack.  After a few days of recuperation, he was back, as good as new. All was well with our world once again.  We started a handyman/repair/remodel business together, and life was good. 

The good life lasted until about 2001.  During the ensuing years, my poor darling had a few more attacks, until in the fall of 2001, (very soon after the infamous "9-11" attack), he had to undergo a full open-heart bypass surgery. This is known by the acronym, 'CABG,' and stands for "Coronary Artery Bypass Graft."  Inside medical circles, this acronym is pronounced "cabbage," just like the vegetable.  Luckily, he did not become a vegetable following this procedure.
The recovery time, however, was nearly a full year before he felt like himself again, and to this day, there are residual effects from the surgery, such as collapsed arches and swollen ankles, resulting from compromised circulation to his lower leg and foot in the leg they used to take venous tissue for the repair of his heart.

In 2003, we moved our residence out of San Francisco, as we were both tired of "freezing" all summer.  We'd been born and raised there, and while he'd lived for a time with his family in the South Bay, I never left until my first marriage.  We are both, however, very familiar with the truth of Mark Twain's famous statement, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

The bad news is, these CABG surgeries tend to only be viable for about 10 years, and his time is up.  He's had several more attacks in the intervening years, since our relocation, and several more stent insertions to date.  So now, we are travelers on a new road: a very scary road.