Home Lifestyle Breaking the Cycle – My Story of Heart and Mental Health

Breaking the Cycle – My Story of Heart and Mental Health

Sep 7
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Reading time: 9 min
Smiling middle aged man

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Did you ever hear that old fable about the bear and the scorpion? 

Essentially, a scorpion wants to cross a river and asks a nearby bear for a ride on his back. The bear, initially skeptical, says no. 

“Why would I take you? You’ll sting me,” he proclaimed. The scorpion, quite rightly, retorted that if he did indeed sting the bear, then they would both drown. 

“Fair point,” said the bear. So the scorpion jumped on, and off they went. 

Halfway across, however, the scorpion stang the bear. 

“Why did you do that? Now we’re both going to die!” the bear screamed. 

The scorpion calmly responded: “It’s in my nature.”

That story always resonated with me for a couple of reasons. The primary one is that you probably shouldn’t trust something with a tail full of poison. 

But secondarily, it displayed how some things in the mind, in the essence of a living being, are simply hard-wired into us – and no matter how hard we try to fight or ignore these things, they tend to come up at the worst possible moment.

That long-winded intro leads me to the point of this story – my struggle with heart health and the anxiety that came with it. 

Hi, I’m Gareth. I’m a 46-year-old IT specialist from Ohio. Sounds boring, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it kind of is.

I was pretty happy, well, content with that for a long time.

That’s the strange thing about mental health. Everything can feel totally fine, and then it hits you like a ton of bricks.

We’re skipping ahead, though – let me go back a little. 

When I was a kid, I was diagnosed with Supraventricular tachycardia – try saying that 3 times in a row!

Essentially, it’s an increased or rapid heart rate, usually together with a degree of arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat). 

There was nothing immediately dangerous about this, so there was no need to take medication or undergo expensive treatments – at least in the beginning. 

As I grew older, I felt a lot of anxiety creeping in, seemingly out of nowhere. 

I put it down to the usual things a kid growing up struggles with – puberty, trying to make friends, all that jazz. But when it continued into my twenties and eventually thirties, I realized that there might be a bigger problem afoot.

Anxiety, thy name is me

As the years ticked on by, I let myself get out of shape. Hey, it happens to the best of us.

I noticed that I stopped being able to fit in that pair of Levi’s I’d had since I was 20. Yeah, I suppose you could say I had become very lazy about keeping fit and looking after myself.

Again, though, I put it down to nature. I would tell myself that it’s normal, I’m getting older, my metabolism is slowing down, etc. All the usual excuses that I’m sure you’ve told yourself, too. 

The problem was, it wasn’t just superficial – my outward appearance wasn’t something I was ashamed of, but I knew that whatever was lying beneath the surface, so to speak, was likely a much bigger issue.

I began to understand that this could become a serious and possibly life-changing matter if I didn’t take some action soon.

So I did what any reasonable person would do.

I continued to ignore it until it did become a serious issue. 

I know – genius. 

Soon enough, I reached the point where I could feel my heart pounding in my chest even while I was supposed to be relaxed. 

Just sitting there watching the TV, I’d feel it. Getting up to grab a glass of OJ – I’d be out of breath and tired.

The anxiety became overwhelming – at one point becoming so debilitating that even a simple trip to the store became an exercise in trying to avoid everybody I could. 

I finally cracked. 

Middle aged man in grey shirt

When I visited my family doctor, at first, he seemed to be quite understanding and genuinely interested in hearing what I had to say.

The problem was, I couldn’t really get the words out. 

That’s the thing with anxiety – making that first step is tricky.

Finally, I managed to explain that I was becoming increasingly worried about my increased heart rate and posed the question, “maybe it has something to do with the anxiety I constantly feel?”

I wish I could say that my journey to feeling better started here, but in all honesty, this was when things got even worse. 

He didn’t mention anything about why I was experiencing these problems other than using the old diagnosis of a high heart rate. Oh, and that I had high cholesterol levels – something which I probably could have guessed. 

Look, working in IT means I sit on my ass a lot, and let’s be honest, junk food is tasty.

There was no mention of diet, exercise, or anything to help fight the cause, not the symptom. 

The doctor prescribed ACE (Angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors, which sounds really weird when I write it out now. 

Anyway, the point of this medication is to relax the walls of the many veins and arteries in your body. 

A relaxed vein or artery supposedly allows the blood to pass through with lower pressure required. 

This not only reduces blood pressure but gives the heart a bit of a break, too – not needing to pump quite so hard to get things where they need to be.

But of course, there were side effects. 

And they were many.

Where it all went wrong

I was expecting some side effects – I mean, it’s medication, they always have some. 

I wasn’t expecting them to be so bad that my anxiety absolutely shot through the roof. 

Maybe I didn’t mention this before, but I could probably consider myself something of a hypochondriac. If I get a headache, my mind immediately jumps to “Well, Gareth, I suppose this is it.”

So when precisely that started to happen while on the meds, I began to panic, and my anxiety started to take over again. 

The headaches, the cough, and most importantly, the dizziness – they scared me so much that I figured dealing with a bit of high blood pressure and anxiety was a better option than this. 

I came to my senses, though. 

Giving up and giving in just couldn’t be an option. 

So I did what anyone would do. I searched the internet. 

Big mistake. Huge.

You know the score – 500 solutions compete to be the “one and only” that will help you. 

I was naive, or maybe desperate enough to actually believe them. 

I tried these mega low-calorie diets; I tried heading to the gym every day after work and pumping iron. 

Obviously, neither of these things worked for me – they were too generic advice, and there was a lack of guidance.

So I continued to search, and ultimately, I found something that actually looked promising.

Sorting the wheat from the chaff

When I started using Cardi.Health, I didn’t expect results. After the many failures I had already experienced, I was just hopeful but certainly not expectant. 

And that turned out to be the right mindset. 

Progress, especially progress related to heart health, takes time. It has to. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

However, I did notice changes more quickly than I expected. 

The first noticeable change was to my blood pressure. After using the app and sticking to the diet and exercise plans for a few weeks, it was already evident. 

I didn’t feel that thumping through my chest while doing the most basic things.

The incredible thing was the effect on my anxiety. 

That link between heart health and anxiety, that link I’d thought about in the back of my mind for so long – well, now it was clear. 

Ever since my heart rate and, in turn, blood pressure dropped to a normal level, my anxiety has reduced to the point where I can function normally again.

Man in blue shirt in front of the sea

Sure, I still get the occasional flutter before a big meeting, but that’s normal. It feels great to feel normal, honestly. 

I never even realized I had a problem with food, so having a personalized meal plan was a game-changer.

How effective is Cardi.Health?

In a word: very

At least for me. 

Look, everybody is different, we all react differently to things, and there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution.

However – Cardi.Health is the closest thing I’ve found to such a thing. 

There’s a pretty simple reason for that. 

Personalization

Do you know how we all have these little things that are unique to us? I think of my grandpa, the way he has to have the TV remote in his hand at all times, even when he’s asleep. 

Or the way my sister only eats after cleaning her hands with those weird little lemon-scented wipes. 

Our health works the same way. It’s personal. 

That’s why I think the personalized meal planner being used in the app is such a key feature.

Not only does it allow you to choose which foods are included or excluded, but professional nutritionists prepare all the meal plans themselves. 

Couch potato? 

Been there, done that. 

The exercise was never a big part of my life, and to be honest – it still isn’t. 

But having a personalized exercise plan made for me, based on my cholesterol and blood pressure measurements, made me see that exercise is not only a necessity, but it can actually be incredibly rewarding.

I’ve started to lose weight, which has definitely helped both my cholesterol levels drop and my overall health increase quite drastically.

Again, exercises in the app are based on the things you like – so you don’t have to do pushups if you hate them with a burning passion – you can do something else instead!

Ready for a healthier heart?

I’m guessing that if you read this far, you can probably relate on some level to my story. Maybe you weren’t diagnosed with a condition early in life, but it doesn’t matter. 

The fact is this.

If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, you need to do something about it

The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll get better. 

I know it’s hard to believe that good things can happen to you; trust me, I’ve been there! It is hard sometimes to think that we’re even worthy of that. But you are – you really are.

Smiling man in the woods

So what do you have to lose from trying? If I could do it as a pretty lazy middle-aged guy, nothing is stopping you. 

Take it slow, do things at your pace, and feel so much better for it.

Experience for yourself what Cardi.Health’s personalized plan can offer.

Learn How to Help Your Heart by Taking This 60-Second Quiz
Click Here to Start the Quiz
Results may vary due to personal features.
Written by
Edibel Quintero, MD

Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel's goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.

Smiling middle aged man

Comments (3)

  1. avatar
    Tina
    19 Jan, 2022 at 8:07 am

    I’m losing weight pretty quickly using the app and my blood pressure has started to fall to a good place, thank you.

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  2. avatar
    Cynthia
    20 Jan, 2022 at 8:12 pm

    My kids have been worried about my cholesterol for a while so I tried the app. So far it is really good, I like that not all of the meals are just boring salads!

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  3. avatar
    Albert
    21 Jan, 2022 at 9:55 am

    Sounds like it’s too good to be true. But what the hell like you said, I have nothing to lose.

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