Blood circulation is a continual process of blood being transported from the heart through the arteries to different parts of the body, including organs. When there is an interrupted flow of blood throughout the body and poor circulation occurs the body is unable to carry out its normal functions efficiently. Symptoms of poor blood circulation develop over time and include swollen feet, cold feet and hands, skin discoloration, fatigue, loss of appetite, dry skin, memory loss, erectile dysfunction, constipation, varicose veins, numbness, etc.
As someone leading a very active lifestyle, I didn’t think I would have to deal with blood circulation issues. So I was shocked to be diagnosed with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) in my left leg and Pulmonary Embolism (PE) in April 2013. This was three months after become symptomatic and going to the doctor every other week for a swollen leg. When the diagnosis finally came I was very angry with my health care providers. It was not until I went for my Saturday morning 10 mile run and I could not breathe that my doctor told me he was going to test me for DVT and hoped I did not have PE. With the affirmation of this diagnosis I felt like my world was coming to an end. Since developing a lifestyle free of pharmaceutical medications I was faced with a dilemma to take lifesaving medication. I was convinced by two family members who are pharmacists to follow all of the doctor’s orders so I can get out of the danger zone. The delay in diagnosis created additional complications. I was shortly thereafter diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, an enlarged left and right atrium and I was told I had a cyst on my lungs. Currently only my left atrium is enlarged.
My medical providers told me they did not think my chronic swollen left leg was due to a DVT because I do not fit the characteristics of a person with a DVT, even though almost 20 years ago I had a small blood clot in my leg because I was taking birth control pills. Being the over thinker that I am, I indulged in self-study of how to continue to live a healthy and active life with these conditions. This was considered my second clotting event and a third could make me a candidate to take Coumadin indefinitely. I needed to find ways to naturally decrease my chances of having another clotting event, to improve my blood circulation and to maintain a healthy weight without being on Coumadin.
People on Coumadin are warned to decrease their amounts of Vitamin K enriched foods as they can cause the Coumadin to be unable to thin your blood. This was extremely stressful to me since my diet consisted of many of the foods on that list (kale, spinach, chard, grapefruit, etc). I worked with my doctor so I could eat the same amount daily and this would not affect how the Coumadin would work.
Since being off Coumadin I have gone back to eating more and a larger range of foods rich in Vitamin K. I also eat a lot of cayenne, garlic, ginger, watermelon, avocado, beets and chives. I make a variety of drinks with these ingredients and other anti-inflammatory ingredients. I also decided to follow the advice from an herbalist, who suggested that I eat wild salmon every so often. This has been a major struggle for me as a vegan and vegetarian, but I made the difficult choice to do this for my health. My herbalist has also recommended that I no longer practice Bikram yoga. This was very heartbreaking because I loved doing Bikram and hot yoga several times a week. He explained that my body did not need to get that hot. My blood needed to remain cool and able to move easily throughout my body. He also warned me about lifting heavy weights and gaining too much muscle mass as when you lift heavy weights there is a surge of blood to the lifting area and I needed my blood to not have that type of shock.
Moderate exercising is nevertheless critical to blood circulation. I have been an avid fitness person for years now and picked up running as I got healthier. I started running 7-10 miles on Saturdays and began training people how to do the same. I can no longer run because of the impact on my body. I honestly still have a fear of running, remembering like it was yesterday when I couldn’t breathe in the middle of my long run. The scariest moment of my life. But to anyone else who might be dealing with a chronic condition, I want to say that I am no longer depressed about not being able to run because there are so many other great things I can do. Now I am studying new forms of dance that are low impact and even dream of one day being on a Broadway show.
I write this article to the person who thinks like I did, that your life is “over” now because of a diagnosis. Life starts in the mind. We choose the quality of our life based on our perception. Life changes, but our perception does not have to. Waking up with gratitude for each breathe is a sacred ritual for me now. I am choosing to take my life one day at a time by nurturing myself and taking in each breathe with intention.
Have you dealt with chronic conditions? How do you maintain a holistic and healthy lifestyle?
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Photo: DeeAshley via Flickr