Family Genes Caught Up with Me
(Panama City, FL, USA)
At 57, I thought I was in pretty decent shape, in spite of gaining 30 extra pounds over the last few years and losing my mother and son a year apart, both to heart disease.
My only symptom of a heart problem was the sudden onset of breathlessness and dizziness when I climbed the stairs at work quickly. Because of the family history, I had a stress test which showed a minimal problem. Still my cardiologist recommended a cath to see exactly what was going on. He found 4 blockages - 1 100% and 3 between 70 and 95% on another artery. He said I needed bypass, and was lucky that my heart was not already damaged.
I had the surgery on a Tuesday - not a pleasant day, of course, but was released from ICU the next morning and began walking the halls on the day I was put in the regular room. I got to go home on Saturday morning, so spent 4 days in the hospital. It was rough, holding my pillow to cough and when I walked at first, just in case I needed it, and sleeping was difficult since I had to lie on my back for awhile and I'm a side-sleeper.
Luckily, my husband was able to take off work to take care of the housework, cook heart-healthy meals and to be there to encourage me to take walks with him. At first we took short walks, 5 min and working up, twice a day, then in about 3 weeks I was able to walk a mile once a day. I returned to work 5
weeks after surgery.
It has been almost 4 months since my surgery and I now am walking 2-3 miles most days after work. I've begun jogging again, 1/4 mile intervals followed by walking that add up to a mile total of my distance. I do weights again now that my sternum has healed - very light so far, just bench pressing 35 - 40 pounds and working my arms and shoulders with dumbbells to get my strength back.
With the exercise and heart-healthy diet, I've lost 20 pounds without dieting. My cholesterol dropped over 50 points and LDL is below 70 without increasing my zocor. I have energy again - those stairs at work are not a problem, nor is standing and walking around my classroom all day, or playing with my grandchildren.
Before the surgery, I had slowly adjusted to a slower pace and less activity, without really realizing it. I thought I was just overweight and getting old. Now I know that I don't have to settle for that lifestyle - I can be active and feel great again. And I know now that women don't necessarily have the angina pains and other classic symptoms of a male heart problem. My symptoms were so slight that I could ignore them -- don't wait if you suffer from breathlessness or any sudden change in the ability to be active -- check it out.
Heart surgery is not fun -- having the scar and going through the recovery is something we'd all like to avoid. It can give you a new lease on life, though -- and it's definitely better than the alternative.