American Heart Month is Close to My Heart

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February is American Heart Month. Did you know that cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, are our nation’s No. 1 killer? Since 1963 Congress has required the President to proclaim February as American Heart Month. As a weight loss surgery post-op who suffers from cardiovascular disease, I felt it was important to share my story and some facts on Valentine’s Day when the world around us is full of hearts.  

On the morning of October 12, 2005 my life changed dramatically. At work I felt ill and soon found myself in the emergency room being treated for a heart attack. A heart catheterization revealed that I had four blockages of 80% – 100%. My initial open heart surgery was routine; my recovery was not to be. I became unstable within hours and was back in the operating room. I was placed into a drug induced coma for 4 days to reduce the heart swelling before I could return to the operating room to finish the surgery. I woke a week after my surgery confused and very weak. Seventeen days after I entered the hospital I returned home. I recovered quickly with cardiac rehab. I was one of the very lucky people to survive a heart attack.  

Ignorance of the risks of heart disease was my downfall. All of the men and many women in my father’s family died from heart attacks. My brother had minor heart surgery just a few years before. I was very overweight and ate a high fat, high sugar, high calorie diet. I was the poster child for a heart attack waiting to happen. I think I somehow imagined that I was going to be immune from the disease. I had a stress test few years earlier and passed with flying colors. I thought things are going pretty good for me!  

I share the above story with you to illustrate the driving force for my bariatric surgery. The weight was not going away. The diets were not working. I was sedentary and a couch potato. I was just plain unhealthy. My Lapband surgery did enable changes to occur. I took the ownership of making that change. I see the benefits every day. I feel great and am quite happy.  

An important thing to note about cardiac diseases is that heredity is a major risk factor when it comes to heart diseases. With such a strong history of heart attacks in my family, the risk of reoccurrence is greater and ever present. I did not get a free ride card when I lost the weight and changed my behaviors. I got a reprieve and chance to fight the disease head-on. I do that every day with my diet and exercise.  

I shamelessly lifted the following following 4 lists from the American Heart Association website. I’ve abbreviated them for this post. These are simple lessons we can all live by. You will note that most of these items fall on lists of good behaviors for weight loss surgery patients. There is that common link that proper diet and regular exercise is just plain good for our health.     

5 Goals to Healthy Eating  

  1. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  2. Eat more whole-grain foods.
  3. Use olive, canola, corn or safflower oil as your main kitchen fat.
  4. Eat more chicken, fish and beans than other meats.
  5. Read food labels to help you choose healthy foods.

 5 Goals to Losing Weight  

  1. Keep portions smaller than your fist.
  2. Control your hunger with filling foods that are low in calories.
  3. Keep track of what you eat.
  4. Make trade-offs to reduce how much fat and sugar you eat.
  5. Enjoy more physical activity.

According to American Family Physician, as of September 2010:  

  1. 98% of adults who successfully maintained their weight loss have modified their eating habits.
  2. 94% have increased their level of physical activity, especially walking.
  3. 78% eat a healthy breakfast every day.
  4. 75% weigh themselves weekly.
  5. 62% watch less than 10 hours of television per week.

Get Up, Stay Active!  

  1. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator at work or at the mall.
  2. Set aside an hour after dinner and go for a family walk.
  3. Take 30 minutes after dinner to play with your kids and pets in the back yard and have fun!
  4. Park a little farther away from the office door every day to increase your walking.
  5. Call up a friend you haven’t seen or talked to in a while and go to the gym together.

Treat yourself and your heart well by living by these lists.


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