May 23, 2013 I survived a Type B Thoracic Aortic Dissection, a life threatening emergency, most likely caused by undiagnosed High Blood Pressure. This can happen to anyone, anytime at any age or fitness level. My mirror, 5 mile daily runs and size 8 dress size said I was fit and healthy BUT they lied: apparently my cardiovascular system wasn’t. The brutal reality is it will never heal or go away. Today it’s medically managed. Tomorrow I may need surgery. EVERYday my husband and I strive to create awareness about Aortic Dissection as we learn to live beyond the limitations of having a life threatening health condition.

An Aortic Dissection is a tear in one of the layers of the Aorta (the main artery that carries blood from your heart to your organs). Mine hated me so much it tore from just below the arch down to my kidneys. See that long black line snaking down the artery? That’s the naughty little bitch, Audrey II, who almost did me in.

The condition itself isn’t rare but surviving is…it was once reported about 80% of patients die before the get to the hospital and from the 20% who do get there, only 10% survive. The most common place medical doctors meet an Aortic Dissection patient is in the morgue, or so most of mine have told me, IF they have even heard about it! Statistics are outdated and standard protocols for treatment are non-existent, mainly because the causes are many: connective tissue disorder, high blood pressure, traumatic injury (like a fall or car wreck), body building and extreme athletics, even pregnancy.

One of the biggest impacts of living with an Aortic Dissection are lifestyle changes. Maintaining low blood pressure is key to keeping my bloody Aorta happy. Food and exercise were a huge part of my life pre-dissection. To help maintain my bp, I gave up running and resistance training for walking…Food, on the other hand has been a little challenging.

A “heart healthy” diet, like the one recommended by the American Heart Association is recommended for all patients with a cardiovascular condition. I cringe at the thought of whatever “heart healthy” is because: A) I don’t have a heart condition, I have an Aortic condition B) it doesn’t sound very fun and C) it makes me feel old because isn’t that the diet old people are on? I’m not old. I’m definitely not dead (yet) and since I have no desire to look at the south end of a daisy anytime soon I’ve decided to approach the prospect of a “heart healthy” diet from a new angle: “Aorta Healthy”.

I can’t starve the little turncoat, she wants to eat and she wants to eat good. But finding a balance between an “Aorta Healthy” diet and being a “Foodie” is not as simple as throwing a salad together with some chicken and olive oil on a plate. Life is about growth and right now there’s some growth in the guise of a new adventure taking place in our kitchen sans salt, saturated fats and carbs. Follow our journey as we discover and create artfully fun, delicious ways to turn our “Aorta Healthy” diet into Aortic Cuisine!



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