My Health Transformation
There’s something you may not know about me: I haven’t always been healthy. Up until the age of 21, I led a very healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise. But things began to go south in graduate and medical school, when there seemed to be no time available for anything except study and sleep. Forget cooking a healthy meal or exercise; it was all about fast food and finishing my homework. Unfortunately, my unhealthy habits carried well beyond my schooling.
During the 40 years I spent in the laboratory doing research, there were days when the only fresh air I got was walking from my car to the lab and back again. The experiments I was doing required very little physical movement, so while I did a good amount of standing, my poor body was suffering from a severe lack of motion.
As you can imagine, being so devoted to my research also meant I wasn’t paying much attention to what I ate. My eating habits epitomized the standard American diet—processed food, high-fat meals, very little fresh fruits and vegetables, and lots of sugar and carbs. I also did very little to relieve the stress of my work, and I didn’t make sleep and rest a priority.
My lifestyle choices weren’t just evident in my waistline. I also felt their effects in my energy level and quality of life. I was proud of my research but disappointed in the state of my body.
Then, something amazing happened. My laboratory research started revealing the incredible benefits of the crucially important signaling molecule Nitric Oxide (NO). As I learned more about NO’s role in the body, I began to understand that diet and lifestyle play a key role in the production of NO. And I realized that I was doing very little to encourage NO production in my own body.
My unhealthy lifestyle bothered me for many years until one day, in 2003, when I finally decided I was ready to change everything. I started transforming my lifestyle on a Monday, after a weekend of overeating. I began with a 100 percent change in diet. One week later, I started running outdoors and joined a local gym to train for running marathons. I still continue rigorous athletic training today.
In just two years, my weight dropped from 186 to 168 pounds, my resting heart rate dropped from 72 to 62, and my cholesterol went down from 200 to 140. I now weigh 158 pounds and have a resting heart rate of 56, and my blood cholesterol and lipid profile are those of a 25-year-old man! I have run 15 marathons and cycled 32 centuries (100 miles each). I currently cycle 150 to 200 miles every week. I feel great!
I do whatever I can to make every single day better than the day before. I have a goal to live well beyond 100 years old. I’m 72 now, and I want to do things in my 70s that I didn’t do when I was in my 40s. That’s why I run marathons; that’s why I cycle up to 200 miles a week.
You and I share something in common: We both choose our levels of vitality. I made a choice several years ago to embrace the research on NO and take steps to get healthy. No matter who you are, you, too, can make the decision to live fully and vitally today, tomorrow and years into the future.
Tell us: What has your personal transformation looked like?
Louis Ignarro, PhD
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