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From Health Scare to Self-Care: The Strength of Daily Habits

Little did Cadeyrn know that when he walked into Harrison one year ago it would be the first step towards transforming his life. Cadeyrn’s wife and mother-in-law have been with their Harrison care teams since 2019 and had encouraged him to join, but he continued to put it off.

“As I entered my 40s, I was edging closer to the age my parents were when they passed away.  It was a wake-up call,” says Cadeyrn.

As part of the Premier program, Cadeyrn’s Personalized Health Assessment showed high LDL cholesterol levels, elevated blood pressure, prediabetes, and low vitamin D. These findings took him by surprise.

“While I didn’t pay too much attention to my diet, I had always been an active mountain biker and ran a couple of times per week. But, as the old adage goes, I couldn’t out exercise a bad diet.”

Reflecting back, Cadeyrn says he didn’t notice the effects his diet was having on his body, as it was very gradual.

“I was a bit overweight, had started snoring more and had chronic heartburn, which I dealt with by always having antacids on me. I assumed this was normal for my age and not a huge concern. I was wrong.” says Cadeyrn, who made the decision to commit to changing his diet and lifestyle on the spot.

Although medication can be prescribed to help lower cholesterol, Cadeyrn’s physician, Dr. Elisa Assadi, recommended he instead focus first on lifestyle change.

“He’s young and has lots of room for improvement. Instead of committing him to a lifetime of medication, it’s always preferred to try non-pharmacologic management first. He was very committed from the start,” says Dr. Assadi.

Due to his self-confessed sweet tooth, Cadeyrn started his lifestyle overhaul by cutting out sugar, junk food, and focusing on whole foods. Cadeyrn made some drastic dietary changes on his own, which were fine-tuned by his Harrison Registered Dietitian, Dayna Zarn.

“I went a bit too far the other direction and actually wasn’t eating enough calories. Dayna helped me up my calorie intake, including tripling my protein intake,” says Cadeyrn.

Dayna also helped Cadeyrn reduce his intake of foods high in saturated fat and advised him to focus on boosting soluble fibre. Soluble fibre is beneficial in reducing LDL cholesterol and the management of several chronic diseases. He also reduced his carbohydrate intake in exchange for more vegetables and protein, which would help stabilize his blood sugars.

“We made a macronutrient plan to increase protein and focus on fibre-rich carbohydrates and discussed easy portion size methods to support him when travelling and eating out,” adds Dayna.

Staying consistent

Sticking with any lifestyle change can be challenging. What does seem to help is support and attendance; in other words, accountability. Cadeyrn has this support and guidance from Harrison, but more importantly he had a high level of motivation to live a long and healthy life for his family and for himself. This mindset helped him develop and maintain healthy habits for over a year, with no plans of stopping.

Fitness habits

While Cadeyrn was already active prior to his diagnosis, he became more consistent and dedicated, and really increased the frequency of his activities, including more weight training. Strength training was recommended by Harrison’s Exercise Physiology team because studies show that it can reduce resting blood pressure, decrease LDL cholesterol, and increase HDL cholesterol, all of which contribute to better heart health. Additionally, it improves blood flow and reduces the risk of plaque build-up in the arteries. The Harvard School of Public health reported that those who strength train 30 to 60 minutes per week reduced their risk of dying from all causes, specifically cancer and heart disease by up to 20%.

Cadeyrn also reduced his own barriers to exercise by ensuring his workouts were both convenient and enjoyable.

“During the pandemic we stocked our home gym, so luckily I have the equipment I need right in front of me. The fact that I have to walk past it every day makes it much easier to stay consistent,” says Cadeyrn. He also continues to enjoy mountain biking with friends near his home, something he’s been active at for most of his life.

He challenges himself by progressively increasing his weights (progressive overload) and cardio intensity. While an ankle injury put running on the back burner, he didn’t let that set him back and instead redirected his time to weight training and more walking.

Dietary habits

It took him a while to figure out how to eat in a way that fit his lifestyle and wouldn’t take a lot of extra effort. What works for him is having similar foods on rotation and mixing it up within those parameters. It takes away a lot of the work and doesn’t require meal planning.

“There are certain foods I always have on hand, like plain greek yogurt, my go-to breakfast ingredient. Beyond that, I’ve really embraced fish, vegetables, protein-rich salad and things I can make quickly that will also feed my family,” says Cadeyrn.

Cadeyrn also began reading nutrition labels so he knows what’s going in his body. “It annoys everyone, but that doesn’t bother me.” laughs Cadeyrn, “It’s more important to be healthy.”

His nutrition habits have improved Cadeyrn’s energy levels and generally improved how he feels on a daily basis. One of the things that impresses him the most now, is his success with dramatically reducing his sugar intake, something that he indulged in regularly prior to his diagnosis.

“Now that I eat better and have all but eliminated added sugar from my diet, when I do have it, I immediately notice how bad it makes me feel,” says Cadeyrn.

This reaction isn’t unusual. “If you are used to eating a low glycemic diet or foods that don’t spike your blood sugar, consuming extra sugar or excess carbohydrate-rich foods can result in feelings of fatigue, moodiness, and irritability, especially if you’ve been accustomed to lower carb intake,” says Dayna. “Conversely, consistent consumption of high-sugar foods can lead to altered insulin sensitivity.” The perception of blood sugar spikes and crashes become less noticeable, however, the long-term negative effects on overall health can still be significant.

The transformation

One year on, Cadeyrn is now 44 years old and 46 lbs lighter than when he walked into his first health assessment. He reports that he has stopped snoring and has ditched his antacids. All of his blood results improved to normal levels including his LDL cholesterol, vitamin D is now in the optimal range, as well as vitamin B12, iron, and fasting blood sugar. Best of all, he feels excellent and is pleased with the habits he’s created.

“He’s a very determined person who is keen to know what the next step is in his health journey, and then quickly put it into action,” says Patric Gonçalves, his Exercise Physiologist.

Cadeyrn’s success is down to determination, consistency, support, and knowledge. He was armed with the information and guidance needed for making lifestyle changes that would successfully correct his health conditions.

“He’s now reversed his high cholesterol and reduced his risk of developing diabetes. He did all of this strictly with lifestyle changes and without the need for medication,” says Dr. Assadi, “our team is so pleased with his progress!”

And for Cadeyrn, the real success lies not just in the numbers on his lab reports but in the day-to-day joy of feeling better, stronger, and healthier for years to come.

Don’t put off your health any longer. Get in touch with the dedicated team at Harrison Healthcare today and start your transformation.

Caderyn and kids enjoy being active together, outside at Big White Resort in BC’s interior

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