What I Learned From My Dad’s Health

I once asked a friend of mine if he was happy that I completed the same course as him at university one year ahead of him. His answer was “yes, because you showed me what not to do!”

Thanks Gary.

That comment always stuck with me…not because he was wrong (I never had the best attendance) but it is a great point of how we can still learn by looking for what not to do. 

This brings me to my dad’s health. He taught me a lot and has been one of my biggest inspirations. But just like I did for Gary, many of those lessons he taught me were about what not to do. Just like I wrote about previously, it wasn’t his fault.

The Story Of My Dad’s Health

My dad is a simple guy. He loves to laugh and takes pleasure in the little things. He’s smart too and studied Pharmacy (twice!). He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes while he was in his 40s but didn’t change his lifestyle that much. 

He was also a smoker for most of his life, back in Egypt it was common for men to pick up smoking from a young age and he tells me that he started when he was 14. 

As a kid, I was never told much about my dad’s health. I really had no idea that he was diabetic.

In his early 50s he suffered a big heart attack that really changed the game for him. He quit smoking that same day and has never picked up another cigarette. Whatever pain and fear he felt that day was enough to convince him to break a habit that had been ongoing for nearly 40 years! That was something I really made note of because we had tried to get him to quit unsuccessfully for years, but whatever happened that day was more powerful than all our attempts.

The biggest problem after the heart attack was that he slowed right down. He was never the most active person but after the extended hospital stay he was even less mobile. It was a combination of medication preventing his heart rate from going to high and the fear of overloading his newly repaired heart. 

The heart episode began a series of dominos that worsened his health over the next few years. With less movement, his blood sugar and diabetes control became worse resulting in increased blood sugar, increased medication and culminating with a small stroke about 5 years later. 

We were overseas at the time when he had the stroke and he had stayed home because he couldn’t take much time off work. He described the stroke as waking up one day, standing up from his bed and then just falling back to the bed. He says this happened a few times before he decided to stay in bed for a while before trying again with the same result. He then called the ambulance which resulted in a lengthy hospital stay. Luckily it was a small stroke and the effects were mostly limited to a droopy eye which improved over time. Once again, the stroke slowed him down even further which is never good for someone who is diabetic. 

After poorly controlled blood sugar without a change in diet combined with a lack of physical activity, he began to suffer poor circulation in his feet resulting in peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage & poor blood supply at the extremities) resulting in problems with his feet slowing him down even further!

The Lessons

1. Medication Is Not The Answer

He’s a pharmacist. He’s trained to use drugs and medication to manage his health. Instead of modifying his lifestyle, he would successfully manipulate the key markers (blood sugar, HbA1c, blood pressure, cholesterol etc) with different medications rather than changing his habits. The meds would improve his numbers on paper, but the side effects and complications were evidently not prevented or managed well with the medication alone. 

 

2. Don’t wait for the heart attack to make a change

It was very tough to get dad to quit smoking. I remember throwing his cigarettes over the fence one time but he just got angry at me. The lesson I draw from watching his life is not to wait for the big event to provoke a lifestyle change. Do it before you need to do it. Whether it’s smoking, weight loss, diabetes or any other health concern that’s specific to you, learn from my dad to be proactive rather than reactive. It’ll save you an immense amount of suffering and every single day living in your new habits will pay off in the long term.

 

3. Beware of the domino effect

Lots of us have our priorities jumbled up. My dad couldn’t justify taking care of his health because he had to work and didn’t have the time or energy to put the lifestyle changes at the top of his priority list. However, when he suffered his heart attack, it triggered a downward spiral for his health and it was too late to implement any successful changes. He wasn’t able to start exercising after his heart attack, he had to have done that earlier. So the neglect lead to one health problem which restricted his ability to dig himself out of the hole. The problems quickly accumulated and his health worsened as a result of the domino effect. 

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Final Thoughts

I was initially hesitant to share my dad’s story and the lessons that I drew from his health. But at the end of the day, I think it’s an important example that illustrates some very important points. 

He has gifted me a first hand case study that I have been able to apply to my life. It showed me that I shouldn’t wait until something big happens before I turn around my own health and motivated my journey to weight loss. 

Additionally, his story will have a profound impact on my others by shaping my beliefs as a practitioner. My dad’s story has taught me a lot about the healthcare system and pharmaceuticals in general. It has sparked an interest in searching for natural solutions and alternatives to cure the common health problems that we face. 

Lastly, his story can make an impact on your story. If sharing his story can encourage you to make a change now before it’s too late then he will have made an impact on you and your family too, and that’s a great reason to share his story.

I wish you all the best on your way. I would love to help you improve your health naturally if you would give me that honour. Just let me know!

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