By Clare Almand
30 Mar

Brussels Sprouts and Booze: Finding My Balance

Friday, March 30, 2012

Moving to New York has opened my eyes to many things, including a secret that society and even my own mother tried to keep from me.

Brussels sprouts are delicious. Like, for real.

I was fortunate enough to live with a health-conscious friend who cooked dinner every night. She regularly made dishes with a heaping side of brussels sprouts, kale, or spinach. I’d always had a variety of vegetables at dinner growing up (except for sprouts), but I had become accustomed to my mother serving me fewer of them, because I’m Clare—I spread my food around my plate and eat my vegetables last. However, a combination of being a guest, having the desire to eat more healthfully and my roommate making really delicious meals caused me to clean my plate and even ask for seconds.

I felt really good about ingesting these leafy greens full of antioxidants, iron, and vitamin K, which help blood coagulation. Then I remembered that I take Coumadin. Crap.

The general INR range for those of us on Coumadin is 2.5-3.5. With my history of bleeding problems, my personal range is 2.0-3.0. If it’s too low, I’m at risk for blood clots. If it’s too high, I risk bleeding too much. When I first tested my blood after moving to New York, my INR was 1.8. Close to my range, but a little on the thick side, so my Coumadin nurse upped my dosage after I informed her of my change in diet and I agreed to check my blood again in two weeks.

My main problem is that I, like Stephie, am pretty inconsistent when it comes to keeping up with my heart-related tasks, specifically checking my INR. In fact, I almost never test my blood when I’m supposed to. My Coumadin nurse or some lucky employee at the home monitoring company will have to call me to remind me to check my INR. And it’s not always because I forgot. I often find myself wondering, “Watch TV or check my INR?” Guess which wins?

Not to mention the fact that I’m in New York! I’m in the city that never sleeps with all my friends and I’ve been going out…and having fun. Cut to six weeks later when I tested my INR for a second time. It was 3.4. In the words of Jamie Foxx, I blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol.

So I find myself struggling with the balancing act: brussels sprouts and booze. Four servings of leafy greens and four servings of alcohol a week—will those cancel each other out? I don’t know, because I don’t keep track of these things or test my blood when I’m supposed to. (My cardiologist is going to love this blog post).

After a week where I had only one alcoholic beverage without changing the rest of my diet, my INR was 2.5—a happy medium. What I’ve learned from this experience (besides having more than two drinks in one night is always a bad idea) is that I don’t want to get a blood clot or get an injury that results in heavy bleeding. I can eat healthfully and go out and have a good time and still have my INR in a safe range. This is one of the few aspects of having CHD that I can control and I don’t have to be a victim if I just turn off the TV and test my blood.

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