I planned to write a glib monthly tennis challenge, but I can’t muster my usual enthusiasm for glibness. Luke Perry died this morning from a massive stroke. He was 52.
It’s always a bit unnerving to hear someone exactly your age has passed away. After five decades of living, I’m still secretly convinced of my own immortality. Like a child, I can’t conceive of a world without me in it.
But Luke Perry’s relative youth aside, stroke has a unique way of grabbing my attention. My father suffered a massive stroke in 2011. It happened right in front of me, over lunch at California Pizza.
He didn’t know anything had happened to him. He didn’t recognize that he was garbling his words or that he was unable to squeeze my hand. He didn’t realize his entire world had changed until the EMTs asked him to slide from the booth onto the stretcher. He couldn’t move at all.
It was the start of a long three years, for him and for his family. Despite the best care, he never recovered functionality. It’s not the way any of us would want to live out our final days.
I’m not going to preach at you. We all know what we ought to be doing to reduce the risk of stroke. Don’t smoke, limit alcohol, exercise regularly, and eat right. If you’re super serious about controlling your risk through diet, I’d recommend reading The China Study. The published science in favor of a vegan diet is hard to argue with.
You probably also know about the symptoms to watch out for, but you might as well refresh your memory. The CDC lists these five warning signs:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg—especially on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
LittleYellowBall isn’t a health blog, and I’m certainly no health nut. Although I consider The China Study a dietary bible, I’m not a vegan myself. I am a vegetarian–became one after my father’s stroke–but I’m not a particularly healthy one. I eat way too much junk food and not nearly enough kale.
But stroke is one of those issues that push my buttons. Each time I hear about someone having a stroke, it’s like a slap upside the head. A reminder that I’m not immortal. That I ought to be doing a little more to clean up my diet, particularly with a strong family history of stroke.
So the March challenge. I’m not going to become a vegan, but I’m going to commit to a month without baked goods or ice cream.
Even as I type that, I’m thinking, “I can still delete that line. It’s not too late.”
No, it’s not too late. But it’s not too early, either. It’s time.
RIP, Luke Perry.