February is American Heart Month. Did you know that heart disease is the number one cause of death in America? From the CDC: The most common heart disease in the United States is coronary heart disease, which often appears as a heart attack. In 2009, an estimated 785,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack, and about 470,000 will have a recurrent attack. About every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event, and about one every minute will die from one.
Last week, Chris was one of the 785,000 Americans who had a heart attack. It was terrifying for both of us. For the past couple of weeks, he has complained of chest pains after his weekly basketball game. I blamed it on being out of shape and the pizza and beer the boys enjoyed after the game each week. But last week, the pain was worse than ever, and didn’t get subside. He experienced pain in his chest, his left side, and broke into a cold sweat. He called me on the way home and said he was going to stop in the ER and I should meet him there. I pulled myself out of bed, threw on some clothes and went to the Heart Hospital, expecting to find him hooked up to some machines for observations. I was met by a doctor telling me that my husband was having a heart attack, and four nurses doing various medical things to Chris. What a scary, shocking moment for both of us! Luckily, Chris had the sense to recognize the symptoms and drive himself to the ER. The cardiologist explained that the right artery was blocked, and that they were going to insert a stent to allow the blood to flow through. The medical team wheeled him away for the procedure.
About 45 minutes later, the cardiologist was back, telling me that the stent had been inserted, everything had gone well, the blockage was cleared, and there shouldn’t be any permanent damage to the heart. Chris spent the next 3 days in the hospital for observation, and learning about way to take care of his body to prevent long-term damage, or another coronary event. Basically: proper diet and exercise. His event was largely caused by not managing the Type II Diabetes he was diagnosed with a couple of years ago. Part of is was denial, part of it was just being overwhelmed by the restrictions and demands of a controlled diet. But, this was a wake-up call.
While he’s been relaxing at home this week, we’ve been experimenting with a heart healthy/diabetic-friendly diet. It’s a learning process for both of us to figure out the proper things to eat to keep his blood sugar from spiking, or when to snack, or foods to avoid, while also watching calories, fats, and carbs. He’s already had follow-up visits with his new internist for his diabetes, and his cardiologist. Both are optimistic that with effort and a little time, he can get this under control and prevent future problems. He’s putting forth a great effort so far!
Use February to evaluate your heart health. St. Anthony and Mercy (and I’m sure other hospitals in the area) offer $50 heart scans that can help you determine how healthy your heart is. Take advantage of a heart healthy diet with lean meats, lowfat dairy, colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and foods without added sugars. Watch salt, cholesterol, and trans-fats. The CDC says the chance of developing coronary heart disease can be reduced by taking steps to prevent and control factors that put people at greater risk. Additionally, knowing the signs and symptoms of heart attack are crucial to the most positive outcomes after having a heart attack. People who have survived a heart attack can also work to reduce their risk of another heart attack or a stroke in the future. For more information on heart disease and stroke, visit CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention.