LIfe at High Altitude in Colorado

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.

-Edward Abbey, naturalist and author (1927-1989)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Heart Attack Survivor - 4 Years and Counting

Today, I celebrate heart health.
If you're visiting my blog because you, a family member, or a friend has heart disease, I've provided several links in this post that might interest to you.

January 8, 2014 marks the fourth year of recovery
from my artery tear (SCAD) and heart attack.
If you have any interest in my particular coronary event,
please click on "Heart Attack" in the Labels section in the sidebar. 

Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the US.
Most of us don't give the heart a second thought -
until it doesn't work properly.

During the month of December 2013, I completed an on-line course, The Anti-Inflammatory Diet,  through the Center for Integrative Medicine, University of AZ Medical School. The diet recommendations follow an anti-inflammatory food pyramid, which is markedly different from many food pyramids. Please have a look. I believe it's a healthy diet for all to follow. New research shows that inflammation in the body is the cause or the contributor to many chronic diseases. 

In my own quest to heal my heart and body,
I continue learning about healthier ways of living.

 I eat mostly organic meat and produce. I rarely resort to fast food or processed foods. I don't overeat. I limit sugary treats (this doesn't mean I don't have an occasional dessert - often a spoonful or two satisfies me). I watch salt intake. I eat fruits and vegetables across the color spectrum to ensure I get sufficient nutrients. I rarely eat red meat. I use fish, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds as protein sources. I consume healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, cold water fish, nuts). Healthy eating helps to maintain a healthy weight. I watch portion size and am mindful, trying not to snack indiscriminately. I eat well, enjoy tasty food, and don't feel restricted by my diet. 

I exercise daily - lifting the fork to the mouth doesn't count as exercise! The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least 5 days a week plus strength training 2 days a week. I like to be outdoors when I exercise aerobically, but a gym membership can work well too. If nothing else, climb stairs or park so you must do some walking to get your errands done. I do core exercises every morning, using my own body weight to increase my strength and stamina. The exercises (which were suggested to me by a physical therapist) take less than 15 minutes and reap instant rewards: I feel more alert and as though I have better posture during the day. They are based on modified Yoga poses. The best thing I did after my heart attack was to enroll (at my cardiologist's suggestion) in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at a Denver hospital. There, I was hooked to a computer and closely monitored by physiologists while exercising. Through that program, I also met other heart attack survivors - we became a support system and cheering squad for each other which was beneficial both physically and emotionally.

Living with optimism and gratitude, looking for the small but significant good in everyday life has helped me immensely. I practice mindfulness and believe that I succeed in staying more in the present than previously. I'm alive NOW - what has happened in the past or what will happen in the future is out of my control. Life isn't something that will occur after we make more money, lose weight, find true love, or receive recognition for our accomplishments. Life is the present moment and the moment after that. If we don't seize those moments, appreciate them, try to learn lessons from them, they are gone forever. I'm retired, have a loving family, and caring friends - perhaps managing stress is easier for me than it is for some. However, I know that the body (the heart) reacts to stress in significant ways. We can all benefit from clearing our minds, taking a deep breath, and focusing on appreciating life's blessings.

I take them! Do your research. One of my Drs is well-versed in supplements and alternative treatments. I also learn as much as I can. Many DRs won't give you advice on supplements because they don't have medical training in that area. At the least, take a good quality multi-vitamin/mineral. Omega-3 fatty acids may also be beneficial. 

I'm not medically trained. I am only an average person who was well and then suddenly had a heart attack.  I thought I was invincible - I was not! 

My best friend FaceTimed me yesterday from NZ where she's visiting for several months. She had reread all my posts about heart attack. She says the event changed me - that both my writing and my photography are different now. I think (hope) she meant that they might be better. When you experience an event that could kill you, you pay attention. Hopefully, you make some positive changes.

Good Luck to you.
Make positive changes.
Be well.


Arija said...

Barb, I have lived with degenerative heart disease for 47 years and still counting although I have had near death experiences galore in that time. 3 Heart ops and 2 replaced valves and a third that needs doing but no-one will touch, I am still going strong and appreciating every moment I have on this beautiful planet.
My bedside table looks like a small pharmacy, I eat what I like, mainly chemical free foods, grow most of my own veg. and eggs come from the hen house. My hens are fed on chemical free grain and food scraps unlike shop bought eggs and poultry that are full of antibiotics and colorant to make the yolks yellow.
I am limited in the exercises i can do, aerobic ones are out but I do mild yoga type exercises with weights first thing in the morning to keep me supple.
Being sensible about eating habits and exercise is always a good thing. Since no-one can guarantee that I will live a millisecond longer if I cut out butter or double smoked bacon in moderation I indulge freely. I listen to my body and eat what it asks for. Usually seasonal fruit and veg. red meat once in a blue moon and mainly fish and chicken. I love beans and nuts as snacks and love bakeries with lots of cakes, I sniff the air with great pleasure as I pass by.
Keep enjoying life and share lots more on your blog. Happy days!!

Deanna said...

Both my Mother & my Father died from heart complications so I am fully aware of the effect that it can have on one's life. I am not as faithful to good eating and exercise as I should be but I am making an effort in this new year to make better eating choices. Wishing you well, Barb on this anniversary....keep doing what you are doing and inspiring others as you continue your good habits for a healthy heart, body & mind.

Retired English Teacher said...

First of all, congratulations on reaching this milestone. You are a woman that I greatly admire. I admire the way you have overcome the shocking event that changed your life. In the end, it is so good to read that it changed you for the better. I am sure you followed a healthy diet and exercised before your heart attack, but it is great to see how mindful about your health since the heart attack.

I especially want to thank you for the information on the online course for the anti-inflammatory diet. I am slowing working my way into following this diet, but I am excited to know there is an online class that makes it all a bit easier.

My heart is doing so much better. It is remarkable how it has finally settled down and I seldom have attacks of arrhythmia, nor do I seem to be bothered by the rapid beat. Since I have been able to stop taking the heart medications, my GI problems have nearly resolved themselves. That is great too. I am now fighting a auto-immune disease that I have not written about. It is called Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia. I am losing my hair. It is a result of my body's reaction to inflammation. It is irreversible, but keeping the inflammation controlled will help me from having flareups. I have started studying the book called "The Abascal Way" and have been trying to incorporate the concepts into my diet, but it would really help to have a support group. Thanks again for this great information! Best to you!

Duff said...

I did not know this part of your story.Thank you for giving us not only the background on the disease issues, but some clear guidance on how to live all aspects of a healthy life. I am really going to study the anti-inflammatory diet information. I have a healthy diet and do exercise, but I think we can always use new information to consider. Thanks again.

Gaelyn said...

Happy re Birthday! I remember that time and being so shocked thinking you a very healthy person. We all need to be proactive in our own health and well being plus utilize the information available to us like this course. As Arija says, "I listen to my body and eat what it asks for." Yet I try to make it organic, no GMO, fresh and in moderation. Thank you for sharing your story so we may learn.

amanda | wildly simple said...

Great information - AND inspiration. Thank you!

Hildred said...

A really inspiring post, Barb, and how like you to pass on this wise and generous advice. Life is tenuous, and mindfulness of the present so precious.

Sandra said...

Well done, Barb, for this milestone of good health in mind and body. I can tell, by your upbeat attitude, that you're on the best path for keeping fit and healthy. Attitude is very important in all we do, isn't it?
Such an interesting post to read and I shall definitely look into that Anti-Inflammatory Diet as there is a history of serious joint problems in past generations of my family and I would prefer not to go the same way if I can prevent it, thanks to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
I was interested to read what you said about silence on my blog! Thank you for your visit!
I'm not sure if you got my mail about books which I sent a while back?

Rose ~ from Oz said...

There will be many more years to celebrate Barb. :)
Your post is full of good common sense where lifestyle and diet is concerned and holds mountains of wisdom.
Thank you Barb.

The Cranky Crone, she lives alone! said...

Congratulations Barb, not only for surviving and thriving, but for being so pro active, and sharing it with us, in such a nice and gentle way.

diane b said...

Congrats on your four year anniversary. You seem to be doing well and offering some very good husband had a heart attack at age 39 and another at 42 now he is seventy, He used to exercise and watch his diet and he worked for another20 years before his heart caused problems again but not an attack but he had Ventricle Tachicardia. He had to a have an ICD implant and now he gets Atrial Fibrillation.. He takes a handful of tablets every day but lives a fairly normal life as a retiree.Unfortunately he doesn't like to walk any more but he does watch his diet even so he is a little over weight. Luckily I don't have any serious medical problems. I exercise, watch what I eat except over Christmas and regularly check my blood pressure.

Tabor said...

When fate tells us we must fight harder for each day, some of us heed that warning and go forward differently. It appears you have changed your life for he better and perhaps, saved your life.

Granny Annie said...

My title could read TEN YEARS AND COUNTING...AGAIN. Had my first MI on November 6, 2003. Almost made it to my 10th anniversary when I went in for a robotic hysterectomy that was easy-peasy but had second heart attack while in recovery from the hysterectomy. I threw a clot from being off my blood thinners. This is a very informative post and you have provided some excellent information. It is difficult to get people to understand that heart attack in the number one killer because most people die from the first heart attack if they do not get help within the first six minutes and then are not around like you and me to tell the story and fight the battle. Bravo Barb!

fsmum said...

I think I was MEANT to read this post. I am almost 48 with very high cholesterol and a little overweight. My Dad had two heart attacks in his forties and a triple bypass in his fifties and eventually died of heart and bowel problems at 72. All four of my brothers are in their forties now and all have high cholesterol and have bee told it could lead to heart problems. We have all had tests which show that the cholesterol is herediatry (thanks Dad!) and are on statins to control it. However, my doctor has also informed me that my diet is not helping as they can detect that from the lipids and glucose in the bloods. I keep meaning to get things under control but your post has given me a little push now, to do just that! It's the diet and exercise I need to sort as I am essentially a lazy soul! Thanks for the post and the push!

Kerri Farley said...

What a great anniversary to celebrate!!! and Thanks for all of the GREAT Info!!

Arkansas Patti said...

I arrived on your scene after you heart attack and just assumed you were a naturally very healthy, athletic person with all your skiing and walking, plus having a slender body type. How little we know when we just look at a person. I have always felt we are just one breath away from our lives changing drastically. Everything you mention could prevent most of those drastic changes from surprising us. We all know what to do, we just don't always do it. I am pretty good about most things, it is exercise I need to do more of. These darn computers. Thanks for the kick in the consciousness. .

Olga said...

This post is an inspiration.You have taken charge of what you can change and have passed on some valuable information. Take care and enjoy life seems to be a good way to live no matter what one's health status.

George said...

Congratulations, Barb. You are an inspiration to everyone! This is a terrific post that will surely benefit everyone who reads it. Now, go have two spoonfuls of a nice little desert to celebrate your accomplishments.

Gail Dixon said...

My father-in-law died at age 58 of a heart attack. My husband had to have 2 heart stents placed last year. I am very interested in the food pyramid link, so I'll be checking that out after I leave this comment. Thank you for the info to help others. Glad you are doing well and taking charge of your diet and life.

Jeanie said...

Barb, this is a really brilliant and helpful post, even for those of us who don't have heart issues (or at least don't now!). I'm particularly interesting in the anti-inflammation diet, because I think that cuts across a lot of areas, including arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. You will be pleased to know that Rick gave me a membership to our nearby gym for Christmas and I have been spinning and using the eliptical and have started some strength work. I have such a long way to go, but going regularly is something I need to do NOW (which is my word of the year!).

Of all the things in this post, though, the one that really brings a smile to my face is that this is your anniversary -- that YOU are HERE with us, sharing all the beauty that is Barb. That gift of life you received has benefitted us all. And I hope it's just the fourth of many such anniversaries!

Jeanie said...

Congratulations on this very significant anniversary, Barb. You have shared some really valuable information and I will be looking at the links.
You said you are an "average person"....I think your determination and positive attitude about your life are above average and an inspiration to us all.

Terri Buster said...

This was a timely post for me because I have really been studying different methods of exercise and diet. It's so easy to get led down the wrong path with all these experts saying first one thing, then another. Your advice is sensible, and that's what I need. Exercise is not my main issue, it's what I eat...that's the hard part! Thanks for sharing your story!

susanvg said...

I remember that time. I had been reading your blog and all of a sudden you were not posting. You continue to inspire me to live each moment. I am not as disciplined as you though I have slowly turned my life around in terms of healthy living, I still indulge. Your post today was a good reminder that we are in charge of helping to ensure that our moments go on much longer

Carol Mattingly said...

Happy Anniversary Barb. You deserve all the best the world offers. I love your health plan. Perhaps I need to adopt a few things you do. Carol

Lisa Gordon said...

Happy 4th Anniversary, Barb!!
I wish you continued health in the New Year.
Surely you have a great plan for keeping your heart healthy.
Thank you for sharing it here.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Good for you for going through the ordeal and then reacting to it. I have a ways to go on portion control and letting things I cannot control go.

Linda R said...

Good for you my friend and thanks for all this great info. Having that positive attitude does help a lot..

Thanks, Linda

ladyfi said...

That's four wonderful years of strength. Congrats!


I've had heart procedures done....going on 4 years now since my last one. Changing habits and lifestyle is important, I agree. There is still one thing that concerns me sometimes and that is staying away from stress ---when the refill Rx is not ready after I've driven to pick them up and have to wait...or turn around, go back home, and drive back 5 hours later...that's a stressor I don't need. LOL

EG CameraGirl said...

Congratulations for changing your lifestyle so that you are now a much healthier person! You are an inspiration.

Diane AZ said...

Congratulations and best wishes for a happy New Year! Thank you for sharing your healthy changes, you really are an inspiration to us all!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

You truly are an inspiration. I will visit the Heart Pyramid -- thank you for the info. on that. This information is all so good for anyone, whether or not one has heart problems - it is also good advice/reminders for all the many other problems associated with aging.

Catherine said...

Congratulations and Happy 4 years of heart health recovery Barb! Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom (and thank you too for the links/resources - seems I should reduce my meat intake!). I'm inspired by your strength and resolve and optimism! Wishing you continued health + well-being in 2014! :)

Friko said...

Well done!
Four problem free years is quite something.
Many of your pointers should be part of everybody’s life style, not just the heart disease survivors.

I am having problems at the moment. These may be due to medication and I am doing a few tests myself, on doctor’s orders. Exercise is difficult right now, because I get breathless very quickly and mustn’t push too hard. Could be too high a dose of beta blockers, because there is nothing wrong with the heart muscle or my lungs. We’ll see.

Deb Shucka said...

What a helpful and interesting post! I started eating anti-inflammatory when my hip went bad, and those times I stick to it best are when I feel the best. Being healthy is such a simple thing - and so challenging.

upwoods said...

So glad you are alive today to share this, Barb. Hoping many others will be helped by your words of wisdom.

Margie said...

Barb, you are a true inspiration.
Wonderful informative post.

Happy and wonderful New Year to you.

KB Bear said...

You live in a way that many of us aspire to. I think that your gratefulness and appreciation of your life grew after your heart attack. I remember it so well, and I'm grateful that you've found good health. I am heading over to read about the anti-inflammatory diet. Thank you for your beautiful contributions to our world. You've taught me so much. Now, if you could just teach me to slow down :)

Just a small thing - but I want your post to come up in google searches for "heart attack" - your title actually says "heat" attack.

Cynthia said...

You are a good example and inspiration to all to take our health seriously. I'm happy for you--life is a lot more fun when we feel good!

Jim said...

Barb, congratulations! I am so happy that you have found your way through this experience and have come out the other end more informed and prepared.
You 'life plan' here is almost identical to mine. I really appreciate the fact that you saw the importance of rehabilitation after a heart attack. It was the BEST thing for me just over four years ago when I had my heart attack.
And just like you, I thought I was living (and was) a very healthy active life-style. I had forgotten that family genes can play a factor. Our experiences are so similar as is our response to learning to live with a chronic disease.
I too take vitamins and always have for years and have a wonderful 'alternative practitioner' along with an understanding GP and Cardiologist......who does let me reduce certain meds to see if my 'levels' remain in a safe zone.
It is very encouraging to read about your progress and how you have dealt with this and are living in the present as much as you can. Your outlook and courage are very inspirational. Thank you Barb.

Anita said...

GREAT POST! Thank you for caring about others by taking time to give us this information. You definitely have my attention. While I am a fairly good exerciser, my eating habits can stand improvement.

In addition to your advice on our physical bodies, your advice and wisdom concerning our mental state and attitude towards life is right on, too. I am learning it more and more each day.

Here's to many, many more years of your healthy heart and mind!

teri said...

FOUR Years!! Magnificent! That means I have known you for three years. Wow. I am so blessed to have you in my life. Thank you for stopping by my blog. I will keep in mind to no use safety as a crutch. THANK you for the anti inflammatory link- xoxox teri