By John Woods
Friday December 9th started out as a pretty normal day for me.
I had a scheduled vacation day, and was going to go Christmas shopping with my wife. I got up at about 7 am (late by my standards) gathered the garbage, and took it to the curb. I let the dog out for his morning constitutional, had my breakfast, and made a list of what we were going to pick up that day.
At about 8:30 I decided to go upstairs and have a bath. I ran the water, got into the bath tub and sat down when BAM! I got a sudden, shooting pain in my shoulder.
At first, I thought I had just twisted it getting into the tub. But it did not go away. In fact, the pain spread up my shoulder to my neck, and then to my ear and jaw. My assumption was “oh boy, I am coming down with the flu.” But something told me it wasn’t the flu.
I pulled the plug got out of the tub, dried off, and went back into the bedroom to lie down. The pain did not go away. At some point I thought, “ok this is serious. I need to go to the hospital and find out what is going on.”
I called to my wife and told her we needed to go to the hospital. She gave me a baby aspirin (as it turns out the right thing to do), and got dressed.
We made it to the hospital within 15 minutes and, as you may have already guessed, they told me I had a heart attack. They determined that I had a blockage in a posterior vein caused by plaque build up and a genetic condition where the vein was only 1/3rd the diameter it is supposed to be. I had an angioplasty on Monday December 12th and was released on Tuesday.
I live in Ontario, Canada, and because I had a heart attack I was required to go to Cardio Rehab Education to learn what happened to me and what I needed to change in my life to avoid having it happen again. Here are the points that we should all know that I did not know before I went:
- Reduce your salt intake. If you can keep it below 1300mg daily you are doing your body a great favour. Salt causes your arteries and veins to harden and over time small cracks appear.
- Do not assume that your genetic makeup is any different than your ancestors. My Father, Uncles and Aunts on my fathers’ side all died of heart disease in their late 40’s or early 50’s. I never worried about this because I had a healthier life style: not smoking; not drinking; regular exercise. I assumed that I was immune to my genetics. WRONG!
- Your weight and stress levels play a major role in whether or not you have a heart attack. I am short, 5’5” tall to be exact and my weight was perfect for someone 6’2” but not for me. My stress level was extreme. My dog had been very ill for the 6 weeks prior to my heart attack, and I had been fighting a pre-existing medical condition. Add on top of this work, family, and so on and so on and so on…
- Monitor your blood pressure. I had always had normal blood pressure but was told at my last check-up it was slightly elevated. I opted to not take the medication recommended by my doctor but to lose weight (which I never did). Pay attention to the warning of increased blood pressure.
I have decided to change my lifestyle to give myself the best chance of a long life. I am losing weight, I have reduced my salt intake to below 1300mg daily, I am taking medication to reduce my cholesterol and blood pressure, and I am exercising and reducing stress wherever possible in my life.
I have established life goals for weight and life style that I will review 4 times a year and have made a promise to myself to be better to me. My life depends on it.