After Heart Disease and Triple Bypass Surgery, This Florida Man Reclaims His Health and Vibrancy with Blue Zones Challenge
[Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders across the country.]
Dan Krause had major heart surgery in 2018 three years after retiring from the Department of Defense. Now 70, the surgery has made him even more committed to doing whatever he can to improve his quality of life. One of those things is to incorporate the Blue Zones Power 9 principles.
Krause describes his heart problem and surgery: “In the summer of 2018, my mother had passed away and I was up in Michigan in the process of clearing out her house and getting ready to sell it when I had a heart episode. My son took me to the University of Michigan there, an excellent hospital. I went in and they tested me, and at first, they thought they could put some stents in, but that didn’t work. So, I had to have triple bypass surgery, which just shocked me, because I thought I was in good shape, that I was healthy. Fortunately, I had a very quick recovery after that.”
Krause said, “Doctors told me, ‘You know, you could be really lucky in this deal. Now that you’ve had this, it could give you 20 years of healthy, happy life.’ So, even something that appears to be negative, like heart surgery, actually is not depending on how you look at it.”
When Blue Zones was kicking off the Potluck Moai project late last summer in Naples, Florida, Krause and his partner Lisa Gruenloh decided to participate. He was already somewhat familiar with Blue Zones through Lisa, a proponent of Blue Zones who leads purpose workshops in her community and also brought Blue Zones into her church. “I was celebrating a year since my surgery and I was looking at ways to change my life, improve my health and wellness, and also to improve my longevity,” Krause said.
The 10-week project was organized by Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner and NCH Healthcare System, sponsors of Blue Zones Project Southwest Florida. Participants formed teams called Moais and were encouraged to eat more plant-based foods and to be more social by meeting to prepare and have meals together.
“It was very enjoyable to have the potlucks and see everybody – to share the food, community, and camaraderie. I got a lot out of that part, but I think the biggest thing it did was it got my mind focused on what I can do to make my life better and healthier now and in the future, and also what can I do now to make Lisa’s life healthier now and in the future, and how can we work together to shed that light in the community and with other people,” Krause said. “Blue Zones is a very good program and there’s some good science and research behind it. I’m very glad that Dan Buettner and everybody else involved are bringing it to folks so that they can benefit in terms of having longer, happier, more enjoyable lives.”
“I got a lot out of that part, but I think the biggest thing it did was it got my mind focused on what I can do to make my life better and healthier now and in the future.”
Cooking at Home
Krause, the primary cook in the household, now incorporates more fruits and vegetables into his recipes. For example, he likes making vegetable side dishes like roasted broccoli and cauliflower florets, tossed in olive oil, and dishes made with beans. One of his and Gruenloh’s favorites is bean burritos with different toppings. They also like spaghetti made with marinara sauce and large mushrooms pieces to replace meat. And they keep a lot of fruits and nuts in the house for snacking.
Being a big meat eater who loves to cook “Flintstone-sized steaks” on the grill, Krause said the dietary Power 9 principles are the most challenging for him. And he admits that Gruenloh has done much better at going plant-based than he has, although he says they’re both eating much healthier than a year ago.
Some Sundays, when they’re not busy, they like trying recipes from Dan Buettner’s new cookbook, The Blue Zones Kitchen. He’ll go buy the ingredients and then the two prep and cook the meal together, an activity which he says has brought them closer.
Since changing his diet, Krause has lost 10 pounds and would like to continue to improve his diet with his sight set on lowering his cholesterol levels.
The Goal of Vitality & Quality of Life
Krause took a the True Vitality® Test before doing the Potluck Moai and afterward and saw a couple year improvement. However, he’s really more concerned with his quality of life than he is about living to be really old.
“On my dad’s side of the family, I’m right now the longest living male who hasn’t died of a heart attack. My dad had a heart attack in his 50s, but he actually died of spinal cancer, so he lived to be 65. My mom lived to be 90, so there’s some longevity on her side of the family. I’m guessing I’ve got some bad heart genes from my dad’s side of the family and maybe some halfway decent longevity genes from my mom’s side. I’m kind of in the middle,” Krause explained.
“I don’t want to just have a long life. I want to have a healthy life for as long as possible. There’s a big difference. I saw it every day firsthand caring for my mom in the last few years of her life when she was struggling with a lot of health issues…certainly the last five years of her life, she was challenged every day,” Krause said. “We’re all gonna die. The question is how long can we stay vibrant and healthy and live a productive, happy life. Nobody wants to lay in a bed for five years or anything like that. And certainly, for me, I’m willing to do what I can in order to avoid that.”We're all gonna die. The question is how long can we stay vibrant and healthy and live a productive, happy life. — Dan Krause, Blue Zones Project Southwest Florida Click To Tweet
Krause added, “I think the beautiful thing about Blue Zones is it might reach people in their 40s, even younger perhaps. But in their 40s and 50s, if people can start changing their lifestyles, then maybe they’ve got a chance to finish up life really strong and vibrant and healthy.”
Lisa Oliver Monroe is a journalist and author of a travel book about America’s Historic Triangle (Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown). Her writing has been published by Virginia Living, Boomer Magazine, Kirkus Media, Advance for Nurses, and Colonial Williamsburg, among many others.