A man jogging on a trail with a heart one 4 legs with a tail on a leash.

Monitoring My Heart Condition

I’ve had two major episodes with Coronary Artery Disease: symptoms in 2010 which led to the discovery of two blocked arteries and stent installation; and a heart attack in 2012 which led to the discovery of another blocked artery and another stent.

How do I monitor my condition?

Four components

Monitoring my heart condition consists of four components: paying attention to my body; maintaining a healthy body through exercise and diet; taking medication; and seeing my cardiologist for a thorough check-up annually.

Paying attention

I listed paying attention to my body first because I never want to get complacent about my condition. I never want to gloss over symptoms like I did before my diagnosis and heart attack. On two occasions since 2012, I’ve taken myself to the emergency room because I felt like symptoms I was experiencing warranted attention: fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, rapid or irregular heartbeat, severe pain in my left arm. A small problem was discovered on the second visit, but nothing serious.

Changes since retirement

I’ve always been active and athletic, but a time-consuming and stressful job (high school principal) resulted in less exercise and some weight gain. I don’t know how much those factors contributed to my condition, but I retired a year after my diagnosis and since then, through controlling what, and how much, I eat, and exercise, I’ve lost fifteen pounds. Along with taking a statin, my LDL cholesterol level is below seventy, with no side effects from the statin.

Balance and portion control

My diet

A proper diet for me consists of a balance of the food groups (but heavy on leafy greens), small portions, no seconds, little to no red meat, no sugary drinks, almost no fast food, and no alcohol. But I’m not a fanatic: I have a sweet tooth; I indulge in ice cream, cookies, chocolate, etc., but I don’t binge. Full disclosure: if I have an Achilles heel, it’s potato chips.

Exercise

For exercise, I walk at least two miles a day, which is easy because I have a dog. I play golf once or twice a week and almost always walk the course. I put on a daypack or backpack and hike local trails or disappear into the Sierra Nevada when I crave more mileage and space. I also do some climbing and work out at the YMCA. Exercising in nature is good medicine for me: physically, mentally, and spiritually.

My life depends on it

Medications

I’m fortunate that I only have to take two medications: an 80 mg statin and an 81 mg aspirin. I also take a multi-vitamin and two over the counter anti-inflammatory supplements: turmeric and Co-Q10. With no cholesterol or blood pressure issues, my goal is to keep my medication intake at the status quo. Finally, I have lipid panels done and see me cardiologist once-a-year.

A lucky man

I go in with some trepidation, but, for the last eight years, I’ve walked out a happy man. Could it be I’m doing something right? I’d like to take all the credit, but I know it’s a team effort, which includes my wife of almost thirty-nine years, Melinda: an amazing cook, my best friend, my soul mate. I couldn’t do it without her. All in all, I’m a lucky man. But I have to stay vigilant. My life depends on it.

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