Heart scare

mrobbins(6b - Brooklyn)August 1, 2011

Hi everyone.

Just had a sobering visit with the cardiologist. Don't worry, my heart is AOK! Turns out my chest pains earlier this year were just a panic response due to some specific and underlying stress in my work and personal life. No sign of arterial damage/dysfunction, either, nor do I have any genetic susceptibilities for heart disease. But my bloodwork and stress exercise test showed that I am, medically, OUT OF SHAPE. And, at age 42, I can't rely on youth to bail me out any more. I've been eating too much, and exercising too little. Time to balance my own biological budget or I face serious long-term health consequences.

The cardiologist wrote me a "prescription" on her pad that gives my target exercise heart rate, and says "30 mins, 5x/wk". She said I MUST improve my diet (less saturated fat, judicious use of other fats, smaller portions, whole grains) as well. I've been exercising, at most, an hour a week and eating beautiful organic food that trends towards fattiness -- gourmet cheeses and meats, cultured butter on toast, farmhouse cream on berries, granola; but also a decent amount of fresh fruit and salads and vegetables, and lots of water and unsweetened tea. I'm 5'5" and 180 lbs.

I realize I am lucky. I have everything I need to live a healthy life: medical insurance, adequate salary, access to healthy food and knowledge of how to prepare it, and a living environment that is one of the most walkable communities in the United States. The one thing I'm short of is willpower. Especially when there are gourmet goodies all around this town -- Brooklyn has become a foodie nexus these past few years, brimming with artisanal everything: beer, meats, cupcakes, ice cream, chocolates.

Have you had any experience with heart disease? Either your own, or a friend's or loved one's? What would you, or they, say to someone in my position, standing at a fork in the road? Don't hold back if you have some really scary or awful stories to tell. I think I need to hear them.

Thank you.

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Fortunatly we've have not had any heart issues, however DH had a medical scare relating to his diet. His doctor gave him all the tests and he had surgery. The doctor gave him one sheet of paper with the % of dietary fiber he needed each day and below was a list of foods and the fiber content. No script for medication, no pills etc.
To DH credit, he made it his mission to find and buy the foods that would give him the daily % he needed.
He is not a saint, he still eats some of the stuff he loves, but he makes sure he takes care of his fiber needs.
He would rather do that than repeat the medical procedures.
I think DH doctor did the right thing. He gave DH a way to make himself well.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 7:08PM
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Other medical problems yes, but no heart problems to speak of, literally or metaphorical. My doc says my heart will keep on beating a couple of weeks after the rest of my body is dead. Resting heart rate is 54 beats/minute.

On one hand the equation of fitness is rather simple. Burn more calories than you take in to get to the fitness level you want, then burn enough calories to break even after necessary calories to maintain current healthy lifestyle and serendipitous/indulgent calories for quality of life.

All that brings one to having heart, metaphysically. For most, it's does come down to a simple matter of self discipline; a matter of volition. For some that's easy, for others it's the most difficult thing in the world.

Find a physical attivity that you like and can do several times a week. It's a lifestyle change.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 7:09PM
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My wake up call came in January having had good health till then. Gave platelets to the Red Cross the Thursday before and in the hospital the next Tuesday. It sneaks up on you if your awareness is distracted. There are so many diversions from healthy living we can be consumed as we consume. Here are links to threads telling about my experience so far. This of course is only the immediate physical stuff. The disruption of normal living is a whole other story.

First hospital stay


second hospital stay

consultation for procedure to happen in about three months

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 3:58PM
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Fortunately, heart problems are not among our health problems, so no words of wisdom on that score. However, your "prescription" is certainly doable--not easy, I know from experience, but you'll do it! You've been given a wake-up call that will make a difference in your long term health, and I'm sure you'll find the way to accomplish what you need to do.

Hang tough and get exercising! :>)

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 6:09PM
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mrobbins(6b - Brooklyn)

Thanks for the encouragement, mwheel! "Hang tough" is exactly right. I went to the Y for my lunch hour today and biked for half an hour; it seemed like the clock was stuck as I checked it again and again to see if I was almost done yet.

Don, that is some story. I hope the ablation works for you. And I hope you get a more portable "puter" so you can keep all these good folks' wishes close to you!

Endorphinjunkie, thanks for your words of wisdom and your truly admirable heart. I hope to get my resting rate as low as yours someday!

Westgardener, I'm glad your DH had a good doctor. Someone who really cares about the health of the patient and confronts the patient with humor and wisdom about taking better care of him or herself -- actually, that's a GREAT doctor.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 6:21PM
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Ipods are a wonderful invention and make the time on the bike, or running, fly by. I have several play list for various activities and various durations.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 7:17PM
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It can get better. I have battled with my husband's heart problem the last few month. Due to a bad hip on the left side, which can't be replaced a 3rd time and a bad right knee, he can't walk well and became overweight. After several hospital stays, he is now on the way back to better health, less weight and as of today, no more coumadin. Icecream and donuts are banned from the shopping list.
Since Brooklyn is now a nice place to walk, use it for long, fast walks, no window shopping and food stops, but don't overdo it at first, sore muscles are the easiest excuse not do excercise.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 7:48PM
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My history in Brooklyn and food started more than 50 years ago. There were many ethnic neighborhoods back to back in
Brooklyn, and I just luved walking from one neighborhood to another tasting the ethnic food. I understand the lure of the familiar, but things have to change.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 9:07PM
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I'm still obese, but after a scare with my diabetes a two years ago when I got cellulitis and my sugar went crazy, I've developed some new habits. I pay strict attention to serving sizes. I'm not much of a carnivore and am much of a carb lover. Luckily I also love veggies. I thought I'd have to cut the carbs drastically, but working with a nutritionist I learned there are no bad foods, just servings must be paid attention. I even am able to have sweets on a regular basis as long as I pay attention to, again the serving size. I've lost weight, but with my lack of mobility it's very slow. I've made almost a game of choosing foods that are great for me and cooking them accordingly. Since you have so much great food around you, I'd suggest trying to figure out what you'd love the most that would be the best for you at the different places. If I pick something that's too high in something..fat for instance, I'll just only have a quarter or a half of it at a time. I don't feel deprived and my health is better. With the diabetes I do have to worry about heart issues as side effects. My cholesterol is very good and my heart seems healthy at this point. I applaud you for really trying to figure out what will work for you.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 1:06AM
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The DH had a scare not too long ago with CHF. He had several ECGs. The tests showed (to some doctors) that he had had a heart attack some time ago, probablly years. Other doctors didn't think that he had. He couldn't remember having anything that he would think was a heart attack. I guess we will never know.

I speculate that since he had done a lot of boxing in the Army, even did a little professional, he may have gotten a good hit in that area that caused a flutter or something. If it was enough to cause him to lose his breath, I don't think he would have noticed any additional pain.

He was a good fighter, but no man is so good that he never gets hit hard....Right? Right!!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 2:14AM
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gandle(4 NE)

Consumers Report magazine has about 1/3 the latest issue devoted to just the topic you are researching. Should be available on any news stand, really worth reading.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 10:21AM
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I don't think you need scary stories as much as some upbeat and positive reinforcement that a healthier lifestyle isn't about self-sacrifice and boring hard work. Who could enthusiastically welcome the prospect of a lifetime of that?

It takes most of a lifetime to arrive at your situation. It was acquired in moderation over time, and can be solved in moderation over time. Yes, stick to your physician's recommendations, but don't look at it like a prison sentance so much as a challenge. And it should be a holistic approach. You mentioned stress and that is a contributor to your eating and activity habits, and is of itself being associated with cardiac and endocrine problems. So, I'd suggest you might want to address that issue as well.

Find an aerobic activity you enjoy. I personally do not know one person who has purchased a treadmill or home exercise machine who has stuck with it long-term. When I had a more sedentary job, I participated in alternate speed walking/sprinting, year round lap swimming and hit the universal at the Y on a regular basis. That's what I enjoyed so I looked forward to it and it wasn't a chore.

Your wonderful cosmopoliton selection of foods?........OMG......... You gotta know that in that mix are a lot of healthy choices. And that in moderation even those 'not so healthy' ones can be consumed if you don't do it on a regular basis. If your diet becomes drugery, you won't stick to it. And I know from experience that people who live by themselves are very tempted to do the grab and run routine. Plan your meals as if you were preparing them for company, even if that means fixing ahead on your days off and freezing portion sized amounts.

Also take with a grain of salt any studies when they say statistics "suggest" anything. I've lived long enough to see many of them be reversed 180 degrees. The human body and its processes are never that simple, and are in interplay of many variables coming together. In the case of cholesterol, the majority of it is produced in your own body. If your general health is not up to par, limiting your dietary consumption of it (although necessary) may not be sufficient of itself to keep it at desirable levels. Consumption of other foods high in sugar or alcohol feed into your cholesterol levels too as they impact the liver and that is the organ producing it.

Good Luck on your new lifestyle. You will succeed if you look on it as an excellent and potentially enjoyable adventure.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 1:24PM
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meldy_nva(z6b VA)

I agree with Suzi, except I'm an exception re home machines. I have what I call a 'swing walker' ~ I've forgotten it's real name~ and use it 3 to 7 times a week, and have done so for the past 30 years. The doc recommended it to me to help with both weight gain and muscle recovery during one of the long periods of recuperation after a severe knee injury. Because one doesn't lift the foot, there is less stress on ankles and knees, and while the hip joints move they also are less stressed than with standard walkers.

Neighbor went on a portion-control diet: carries a plastic 1/4-cup measure even when eating out. She doesn't actually use it at a restuarant, just holds it near each serving and pushes the visible excess to one side. She's allowed a bonus serving each meal for raw greens or fresh fruit, otherwise limited to and required 3 measures +1 fruit for breakfast, 4 measures at lunch, 5 measures at dinner; foods containing added artificial or real sweetners (sugar, fructose, etc.) were limited to a half-measure [1/8-cup] once a day. Whole grains and high fibre were encouraged but didn't affect the measure limits. She said that because nothing was actually forbidden, she didn't feel deprived although she swore that a 1/8-cup size brownie really wasn't sufficient, lol. That sort of diet wouldn't work for me, but I do see that it would make eating out a bit easier.

One of the things I like best about living in my area is the variety of ethnic food available. Don't be shy about asking what seasonings are used, and then trying new herbs and spices at home. Green beans are green beans are green beans, but I can serve them 5 times a week and feel very much like I'm getting 5 different vegetables. Their character really can change: pan-fried szechuan style (garlicky); steamed and then curried or with marjoram & rosemary; slightly boiled and then sprinkled with dill weed or a pinch of savory and/or sage; and so on. Ethnic choices of combinations are especially good for adding variety ~ I would not have thought of mixing steamed kale and navy beans, but add some minced onion and a sprinkle of lemon juice and that's a good combo; pears and carrots with ginger is another combo a chef taught me; there are so many that I have no idea what's Ethiopian or Indian or Oriental, just that each tastes good.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 4:37PM
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mrobbins(6b - Brooklyn)

Wow, thanks for all these good wishes and good advice. Lots of wisdom in this crowd!

Keeping a food diary this week has been illuminating. I think you're right about preparing meals as though you were serving them to company. I am dating a nice college professor and when he comes over for dinner I find I can whip up a meal that's satisfying and healthy and pretty fast. So I just imagine he's there, or that I'm practicing simple dinners for casual get-togethers with friends in the future.

Have been to the Y two days in a row, doing something different each time -- bike one day, treadmill the next, and the next time I'll try the elliptical thingy, hoping that the variety will be engaging enough for now. I go during my lunch hour and I find I have more tolerance for my busy afternoon at work when I get back to the office. Walks in Prospect Park -- and maybe even a bicycle ride! -- would be my favorite weekend "cardio" activities.

Gandle, which issue of Consumer Reports are you looking at? I checked out the May and July issues online and didn't see anything related to cardiovascular health -- but then again, the website doesn't have all the content available to us non-subscribers.

Now back to my indeed excellent and potentially enjoyable adventure!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 3:00PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

I made it my goal to exercise more this year and I have actually kept up with it. I decided to focus on that this year, next year I can tackle the eating :) Consequently I've lost 3 lbs, but my cholesterol improved! My doctor was pretty pleased with that. I was hoping my glucose would have improved, but it stubbornly stayed right at 100. That makes it right at the line for prediabetes. I'm going to have to tackle the eating thing, it's the abdominal fat that is causing the glucose problem.

I discovered my library has audiobooks that you can download from the internet and then upload to my mp3 player. I LOVE it! I have listened to multiple books on my walks and I look forward (well, sorta) to the walking so I can pick up the story. A friend of mine told me about a mystery series and I have been working my way through the series.

I have been trying to walk 2x a day, some days I am more successful than others, but the audio books have made all the difference for me. I have walked through cold, cold weather, and now, hot, hot, hot weather, although I finally caved on the evening walks and now walk at a local mall that encourages walkers.

I also invested in a good pedometer, I think it cost me 20 or 30 dollars. A few days of that convinced me that I was no where near as active as a slug. In fact, I'll confess, I didn't walk this morning, so as of 3 p.m. today, my pedometer reads 700 steps. That is beyond pitiful. I faithfully write down my steps and it helps motivate me too. My goal is around 4,500 aerobic steps a day, which usually translates to about 7,500 steps total.

I imagine you outwalk me without even blinking :)

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 4:13PM
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The heart info is in the September issue of the Consumer Report. It came out a few days ago, don't know if it is in stores, but we have a subscription.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 7:03PM
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lisa_h , good suggestion about the library and downloading to a mp3. I have to check that out.
I also have a pedometer, it is hooked to my waist band, and every time I want to see how I'm doing, I have to lift my clothing , look down and practically stop walking while I'm looking at the ped.
I bought a big ole wrist watch at a discount store. It has big enough numbers so I can see them without my glasses. I set it to signal at 30 minute intervals and after the first signal, I head home.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 8:21PM
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gandle(4 NE)

Consumers Report August issue has the heart information. Nothing scary about it just good ideas and info.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 9:35PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

West gardener...I attached mine to my bra strap. It's easily reachable there!

I blame the GP for introducing me to additional uses for that particular piece of under clothing!

The wrist watch is a good idea though. I usually aim for 30 minutes in the morning.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 9:43PM
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