Just one second. I feel like I've been told a hundred times had I waited another second, a minute or for sure 30 minutes I wouldn't be here today! I read recently that the American Heart Association has a new campaign "Don't wait for a second." When reading through this, I started thinking what am I doing to prevent a second heart attack? I graduated cardiac rehab with a few hiccups along the way.. not many people can say they that cardiac rehab sent them home and said come back next week. ( Yep, acute pericarditis got the best of me) My chest pain would come and go that my speed on the treadmill would make a turtle laugh! I quit caffeine cold turkey; boy was that painful. I remember asking for Diet Pepsi in the hospital due to a major headache not realizing it was caffeine free on the cardiac units. (UGH!!) Detoxing off caffeine was similar to childbirth, ouch!! I no longer drink alcohol. My glass of white wine when on date night with my hubby is a thing of the past.
You are probably wondering why in the world would I give all this up? Simple, I will do everything possible on God's green earth to never have to experience the sights and sounds of a cath lab!!
Below are the five steps that American Heart Association Recommends for preventing a second heart attack:
1. Take your medicines
2. Manage your risk factors
3. Get Support
4. Connect with your doctor
5. Participate in cardiac rehab
Here is how I manage to incorporate the five steps into my life on a daily basis. Keep in mind I am by no means perfect. I sneak in a burger and fries every once and awhile.. ok, maybe a little more frequent than that! But, remember we are all human, and we have been given a second chance at life so give yourself credit when you do the best you can at prevention.
1. Take your medicine: I am a fanatic about making sure I take my meds every day. This is the nurse in me. I have a pill box and fill it every Sunday night. Crazy, aren't medicine boxes for nursing homes? Nope, its the new cool thing to display on your countertop! If you don't have one, be sure to run out and get one. Medicine is only one piece of the puzzle to prevention.... So always keep it as your #1 priority.
The side effects of blood thinners.. they keep the stents open but makes you look like a pin cushion
2. Manage your Risk Factors: This can be tough because some risk factors are modifiable, and some are non-modifiable. I maintain my modifiable risk factors by taking a statin to keep my cholesterol low, and I follow the cardiac diet( I know this can be very trying at times.. but it does the body good.) I try to make simple changes everyday like eating white meat, vegetables and fruit, and little to no salt. I walk every day and don't smoke. The non-modifiables are a little harder to control... I can't change my family history or age.. which sadly just keeps going up every year!! Always keep in mind that stress can contribute to heart disease. As Mark Twain says " I've had a lot of worries in my life.. Most of which never happened."
3. Get Support: I have relied on my family and friends to get me through this crazy experience! We have talked about my heart attack five ways to Sunday. It seems like every once and awhile the thought of "WHAT IF?" sneaks into my thoughts. TALK, TALK, TALK.. don't let your wandering mind get the best of you. You're alive.. make it worth it!!
4/5. Connect with your doctor and Participate in Cardiac Rehab: I lump these two in the same category because they go hand in hand. My Cardiologists and the nurses in Cardiac Rehab helped me so much! I had faith that they knew what would be best for me and let them guide me through the process of recovery. I went from running half marathons to barely being able to walk from the couch to the bathroom without being short of breath. My heart attack was truly a life altering the experience. Cardiac rehab not only got my endurance back but my confidence and security that my heart could handle a little kick in the butt and be ok!
As I finish writing my blog tonight, I celebrate six months post heart attack. I describe my heart attack to my friends as a crazy journey. I've shed many tears along the way, had hiccups in my recovery and experienced four additional nights in the hospital. But I won't let this get the best of me. I have a second chance at life, and I won't take it for granted!! SO... PREVENTION IS THE KEY TO NOT EXPERIENCING A SECOND HEART ATTACK!! Control what you can control, smile and just breathe.