Taking care of your heart

St Peters Media Center Helena MontanaLet’s talk about heart health and the role of a healthy diet and an active lifestyle. I’m an active guy, eat healthy, but I’ve been doing my darndest to lower the average patient age at the cardiologist’s offices this month!
I’m no doctor, but I have a baseline understanding of physiology applied from my collegiate studies in animal sciences. Earlier this month, I had symptoms of something abnormal, so I went to the doctor to make sure everything was ok. After a series of blood tests, EKGs and an echocardiogram, we still don’t know what’s up with me (I’m sure my family will say that’s nothing new). But don’t worry, it’s nothing fatal. Yet. That I’m aware of. I mean, my chest hurts, but that might be the jalapeno I had for lunch. ūüôā
Having worked with ultrasounds on cattle through reproduction studies, I was able to comprehend the images during the echocardiogram, including blood flow and heart tissue measurements. I mean, have you ever seen your heart on a screen? It’s one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time! So cool!
Image: web.stanford.edu
Image: web.stanford.edu. Not my heart.

But seriously, my doctors have emphasized that an active lifestyle (running 30-40 miles per week) and a healthy, balanced diet is likely to keep my heart strong despite a strong family history of heart disease and genetics that predispose me to problems. Multiple blood tests show I’m in otherwise great health. My diet is fairly well balanced with few processed foods, small amounts of added sugar and plenty of red meat, dairy, vegetables and fruit.¬†Things happen.

It’s important to be proactive in your health care, take care of your diet and activity level. This includes making sure your diet is balanced (marketing buzzwords have nothing to do with food being healthy for you) and getting enough activity in your day. Red meat isn’t killing me, if anything it contributes to keeping me stronger. (See this article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) Running isn’t killing me, despite everyone thinking my habit is crazy. If anything it keeps my heart and mind stronger¬†and my heart rate low enough for the nurses to look at me funny. In fact, I had fun climbing mountains last weekend (see below).
Imagine what could happen if I wasn’t taking care of myself and wasn’t choosing a healthy lifestyle. Make sure you choose wisely and be proactive when symptoms arise by going to an appropriate physician. That’s why we pay for health insurance. Use it before you really need it.
While the past few weeks have been exhausting with multiple doctors office visits, I’m not in imminent danger. We’ll see what comes over the next month as I learn more about the electrical pulses of the heart. This should be a¬†experience!
View of the mountains during my trail run last weekend
View of the mountains during my trail run last weekend


  1. Ryan, This is a super article Ryan. You put away many of the negative comments about running. Our son has lived with a functional heart defect and he is 35. No problems. He is active. I wish you the best! I had cancer and for years after every pain and complaint I had required tests and worry. I was so tired of doctors and tests. But it was worth it. I wish you the best!! Belva

  2. My husband has had two heart surgeries. He was born with a slight heart defect where the muscle fibers in his heart made a loop and caused tachycardia. He also has one valve that doesn’t close quite all the way and sort of flaps a bit, causing blood flow to regurgitate slightly. Even though he’s had the surgeries, he still has tachycardia and other symptoms sometimes. Since he started running in the past couple years, he is noticing his symptoms less and less.

    I hope you find out what your ailment is and can continue moving forward. In the meantime, keep getting those miles in, and thanks for sharing and spreading the word about diet and exercise being so helpful!

  3. Gosh! Scary stuff for a young man. Praying all the answers and results are good. Feel better soon and thanks for the encouragement to stay healthy with red meat in the diet!

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