Straight from the heart . . .

Straight from the heart . . .

What is the first step toward heart health?

Know your numbers!  But, not only what the numbers are ... but what those numbers mean!

On the third Thursday of each month, you will find me greeting women, and men, as they come to the Community Resource Center for a heart health risk assessment.  And, each month, you will find me somewhere encouraging women, to take advantage of this free service!   I'd love to see YOU there!

 

I wasn't a bit surprised!

One of the things that has really helped me with my recovery has been the opportunities to share my story with people, especially other women.   I've had a "Joan of Arc" complex since childhood and this has become my new crusade ... to help women prevent this from happening to them and to teach their children how to live heart healthy for life!

 

Recently, I was interviewed by Tracey Roman and Emily Wyatt at Fort Mill Magazine  about my heart attack and ongoing recovery.  Please listen and share this with your friends, family and co-workers.  Remember, 80% of heart disease can be prevented and yet one in three women will die from it this year.  We need to be better informed, better educated and better equipped to change those morbidity odds!

 

 

As I listened to the interview, I thought about my first day of cardiac rehab.  Honestly, I wondered if I could get through 36 of these sessions.  I wondered if, during the sessions, I would have another heart attack.  

 

What got me through 12 weeks of cardiac rehab?  

 

In addition to my absolute determination to be around for a very long time, I can say that participating in cardiac rehab in a hospital and knowing a professional staff  was constantly monitoring my vitals made all of the difference in the world for me.  I don't believe that I would have had nearly the success on my own as I did by being a part of this program.  In fact, I'm sure of it.

 

There were days I didn't want to get out of bed and I certainly didn't want to exercise.  When one of the cardiac rehab nurses told me that about a third of patients who start cardiac rehab don't finish it, I dug in my heels and became very committed to not only finishing the program but continuing the momentum on my own.  The cardiac rehab staff's encouragement was invaluable.

 

So, when I recently learned that PMC's cardiac rehab received national accredidation through the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, I wasn't surprised at all.  This is the only national certification of its kind and speaks volumes of the program.  From my experience, I would say what makes this program so successful is the compassion and commitment of the nurses who help patients transform fear of failure into hope of accomplishment.

 

Another wonderful thing is becoming a reality as a result of the interview and the experience with cardiac rehab.  The details are still being worked out, but my desire to get this message out to women is taking shape and I am looking forward to a new opportunity to help make a difference in someone's life!   Talking is one of the things I do best and serving my community is one of my sincere passions.  If you have a group that you would like to schedule a presentation, please send me an email or give call me at 803-524-5671!  

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

RIP, Michael

One of my favorite actors has died.  Michael Clarke Duncan passed away yesterday at age 54 while in the hospital recovering from a July 13 heart attack.  Who can forget his stirring performance in The Green Mile or the way he made you laugh in the Whole Nine Yards?  His fiancee, Omarosa Manigault, actually performed CPR and resuscitated Duncan and, almost two months later, doctors were still performing tests to determine why his heart stopped.

 

I remember when I was a kid, age 54 seemed old.  Now that I'm 50, I know just how very young that is!  There is nothing like hearing that someone has died after a heart attack that it makes you pause and give thanks for the recovery you have experienced because so many don't survive.

 

To put it in perspective, let's look at some facts from The Heart Foundation:  

 

  • "Heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States, claiming approximately 1 million lives annually.
  • Every 33 seconds someone in the United States dies from cardiovascular disease which is roughly the equivalent of a September 11th-like tragedy repeating itself every 24 hours, 365 days a year.
  • More die of heart disease than of AIDS and all cancers combined.
  • By 2020, heart disease will be the leading cause of death throughout the world.
  • This year more than 920,000 Americans will have a heart attack; nearly half of them will occur without prior symptoms or warning signs.
  • 250,000 Americans die annually of Sudden Cardiac Death – 680 every day of the year.
  • One-half of the victims of Sudden Cardiac Death are under the age of 65.
  • An estimated 80 million Americans have one or more types of heart disease.
  • Currently about 7.9 million Americans are alive who have had a heart attack.
  • Women account for just over half of the total heart disease deaths in the United States each year, although many women continue to think of heart disease as a man’s disease.
  • Under age 50, women’s heart attacks are twice as likely as men’s to be fatal.
  • 8 million women in the US are currently living with heart disease; 35,000 are under age 65. Four million suffer from angina.
  • 435,000 American women have heart attacks annually; 83,000 are under age 65; 35,000 are under 55.
  • 267,000 women die each year from heart attacks - six times more than the number of women who die from breast cancer."

 

Sobering statistics, aren't they?  Being one of those statistics, I have taken my heart attack and recovery very seriously.  While my issues with cholesterol are predominantly genetic, I will still do everything within my power to prevent  further damage to my heart.

 

I started this blog when I began cardiac rehab some 12 weeks ago.  This Thursday will be my last session with the group at Piedmont Medical Center and I will tell you, personally, that this is an exceptional program.  I'm not the only one who thinks so because they have receved national accredidation and the nurses on this team were also recently honored.  Anyone who survives a heart attack should complete this program if at all possible.  Today, since I "graduate" this week, I was put through a walk test and we reviewed where I was three months ago to today's results.  To witness the progress that I've made, to feel better than I have in some time, to have more energy and to know that I've been given a second chance at life makes me very determined to stay on this path.

 

I want to be able to share my story with other women to help them from becoming one of those statistics.  I've been very privileged to participate in a recent series of television and radio commercials for PMC's Vascular and Heart Center.  I was tickled pink to be asked to voice those commercials since I know, first-hand, what an excellent program they have and owe my life to it.  Here are the links so you can view them and, hopefully, pass them along to your friends to bring awareness about heart disease.

 

Piedmont Medical Center Cardiac Survivor Linda Caldwell 

Piedmont Medical Center Cardiac Survivor Ruby Gunn

Piedmont Medical Center Cardiac Survivor Frank Pruette

 

I've also been very grateful that Fort Mill Magazine has been sharing my blog with their readers and I will be interviewed for their podcast on Wednesday to share my story.  The notes of encouragement I've received and the opportunities for me to help women understand the importance of this issue have been so instrumental during my recovery.  I appreciate the kind words more than you know.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Celebrity's heart attack gets national attention!

We all heard the news this past week about Rose O'Donnell, age 50, suffering a heart attack.  When you have a heart attack at this age, like I did, the first thing people say to you is that "you are too young" to be in here for this!  Considering that heart disease can start developing in your twenties and thirties, unfortunately, we aren't too young.

 

While you hate to hear of anyone experiencing this, one thing we know is that when it happens to a celebrity, it makes national news and that, in turn, can grab everyone's attention.  In Rosie's case, she first thought the pain and soreness she was experiencing was from when she had helped (in her words) "enormous woman struggling to get out of her car/ she was stuck," while Rosie was walking through a parking lot.  Honestly, when you reach a certain age, you have more aches and pains; it takes us longer to recover when we over do it.  

 

And, like most women, Rosie kept pushing through her day.  How many of us do this?  In my case, I had always measured pain against giving natural childbirth (twice!).  If it didn't hurt as bad as that, I could make it!  Needless to say, I have a whole new benchmark for pain after the heart attack!

 

Once Rose's symptoms increased to include nausea, vomiting, being hot, and having clammy skin, she thought this might be something more ... perhaps she was having a heart attack.  She remember seeing the Bayer Aspirin commercials.  She popped the pills and now says that's what saved her life!   Even after all of this, though, she still had not called 911 or gone to see a doctor!  Like a lot of women, she probably thought, "not me!"

 

It wasn't until the next day that she went to a cardiologist who, after doing an EKG on her, sent her to the hospital to have a stent put in.  Her LAD was 99% blocked ... the area nicknamed "the widow maker."  I would venture to say that it was more than aspirin that had something to do with her still being here today.

 

I actually watched the news story on this while I was at cardiac rehab.  The nurses immediately turned up the volume and we were all kind of amazed that Rosie admitted she really didn't know the symptoms of a heart attack in women and that she didn't call 911 after taking the aspirin.  

 

It really made me stop and wonder how many more women there are out there just like Rosie? Women who push through the pain, are in denial that it could be them, who don't know the symptoms or what to do.   How many of have symptoms but they are so closely compared to those of menopause or the flu or we think of how it presents in men ... that we just don't think "heart attack!"  I knew the symptoms of a heart attack and still thought my symptoms were something else since we were all down with the flu.  It wasn't until the cold sweats and the pain became disabling that I came to that conclusion.

 

According to a letter written by a volunteer for WomenHeart.org, "The latest data show that only one in five women believe heart disease is their greatest health threat, and 46 percent -- nearly half -- say they would do something other than call 911 if they were experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack."

 

We need to change that!

 

Recently, I received this wallet card from Piedmont Medical Center.   I would suggest that you print it and put it in your wallet.  It is essential that we educate women because heart disease kills MORE women than all of the cancers combined INCLUDING breast cancer!  

 

 

The next time you are at a gathering with your female friends, or at a meeting at work, look around at the women in the room.  For every third women, I want you to visualize their headstone.  That is our reality, ladies!  One out of every three women will die from heart disease.  If it isn't you, it could be your mother, your sister, your best friend, your old college roommate! 

 

Share this blog with all of your female friends, family members and co-workers.  If heart disease runs in your family, talk to your doctor and learn how you can PREVENT this from happening to you!   Do it for yourself, do it for your family!

 

 

Indigestion or something else?

Upon my discharge from the hospital I was told, rather emphatically, to report any unusual or concerning symptoms to my cardiologist.  The challenge is now to know what constitutes "unusual" so, as I am prone to do, I asked that question from one of the nurses in cardiac rehab.  A simple answer was that if I experience any symptom or episode that makes me flashback to the heart attack, that would be time to call ... just to be sure!

 

Over the last two weeks, I've been struggling with continuous indigestion and just haven't experienced the same energy.  There may be a number of factors, considering all the meds I'm now on between the heart issues and the osteoarthritis.  Four meds at breakfast, five at night.  So of course, I rationalized it to all the meds or too much spicy food.  It has gotten better but, since that heartburn and pressure reminded me of the symptoms I experienced during my heart attack, we decided it was time to call the cardioligist who immediately brought me in and did an EKG.  The test came out well and the next step was a stress test to make sure there's no blockage where the stent was placed.

 

I do believe the "stress test" must be a double entendre.  With the arthritis, my ankles and left knee aren't in the best of shape and treadmills are not my friend.  We used to enjoy long walks but I haven't been able to do that for a few years now.  Understandably, I was stressed about the stress test because of the impending flare-up to follow afterwards.  The 15 minutes I spend in rehab on a treadmill is very reasonably paced, taking the arthritis into consideration because pain and swelling equals joint damage for me ... something I have been working very hard to try and prevent.

 

If you've ever had an exercise stress test, you know what I'm talking about.  When they told me that they needed to get my heart rate up to 145 (based on my age, height, etc), I thought "oh boy, this is gonna get interesting!"  Needless to say, the ankles didn't hold up so they gave me an injection to speed up the heart rate.  That was quite an experience and the fatigue that hits you comes on strong and rapid ... but fades pretty quickly as well.  Since you can't have any caffeine before the stress test you're encouraged to get some after this injection to restrict your blood vessels. The experience left me a little nauseated, so I was earger for a soda!  

 

I wish my ankles and knees would have held out because heart-wise, I was holding up pretty well ... which was very encouraging!  I truly believe everything is fine with my heart and I'll get the diagnosis from the cardiologist this week.  All of this got me thinking.  Now that I am a two weeks away from completing cardiac rehab sessions, what do  I need to keep in mind from this point on?  First of all, I don't think the "rehab" ever ends.  For me to live a heart-healthly life, that is now a lifestyle!

 

Here are a few tips from a terrific online resource I found at WomenHeart.org:

 

  • Stay on top of routine and follow up appointments. Regular check-ups help your doctor monitor your heart health and detect signs of disease progression.
  • Prepare for your doctor visits in advance. Write down your questions and concerns, any symptoms you are having and any changes in medications you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, herbal and vitamin supplements.
  • Work to reduce your risk factors. This will help prevent or delay future heart problems.
  • Know your numbers. Keep track of your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels through routine screenings or as recommended by your health team.
  • Pay attention to your symptoms. If they become more frequent or severe, contact your doctor right away. If you think you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1. Never drive yourself to the hospital; your symptoms could worsen while you are behind the wheel.
  • Stick with your treatment plan. Follow your heart team’s recommendations and take medications as directed. If you experience side effects, tell your doctor. You may require a dose change or a medication change. Ask specifically for something to help relieve the side effects.
  • Write down questions or concerns you have for your health care provider. Prioritize your questions and concerns. Be sure to take the list to the office or the clinic. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand something your doctor tells you.
  • Bring a family member or friend with you. The stress of a medical visit sometimes makes it easy to miss important information. It is a good idea to bring a family member or trusted friend with you to your appointments. They can listen, help ask questions, take notes, and provide emotional support.

 

One of the tips I have to remind myself of constantly:  "Know there will be good days and bad, so don’t beat yourself up or overdo it."   

 

I am, honestly, still working on that one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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